|FABER & FABER|
the guardian Sat 24 January 2009
From "Flowers" ("Some men never think of it. / You did") to "Valentine" ("My heart has made its mind up / And I'm afraid it's you"), you know more Wendy Cope than you think. The title of her Selected is taken from perhaps her best-known offering, a trenchant two-liner that runs "1. Don't see him. Don't phone or write a letter. / 2. The easy way: get to know him better." The pithiness, click of rhyme and smoothly insistent rhythm show why Cope is, as the cover has it, "one of Britain's best-loved poets". This is likeable verse: witty, memorable, immediately relevant.
For all that, it's difficult to see why, exactly, Faber has chosen this moment to produce Cope's Selected. Despite her household-name status, her published output is surprisingly slim - just three collections. Furthermore, her poems gratify instantly, rather than requiring careful rereading. Cope herself suggests in her introduction that the idea for the Selected came about because of her "misgivings" about her work being misinterpreted - an oddly reductive statement, which casts a didactic pall over the collection. As a greatest-hits primer for fans, this satisfies; beyond that, it is hard to see what the volume offers. SC