Wendy Cope: The River Girl: A rehearsed reading

Organised by Chris Sylvester

BRLSI Member

10 September 2004

As introduction, Janet Cunliffe-Jones read part of an interview with Wendy Cope, which had been printed in Saga magazine, and in The Oxford Ammonite, the newsletter of St. Hilda’s College.

Cope stressed the necessity of honesty in poetry, quoting George Herbert’s ‘Dare to be true’. Her early work had often been about failed love affairs (‘She never made the same mistake again/ She always made a new mistake instead’) but now she must be honest and write about her present happiness – which some people find difficult.

The semi-dramatised reading of The River Girl took about 40 minutes. It was agreed afterwards that reading this text aloud brings out Cope’s constant, subtle subversion of the pastoral/lyrical conventions on which the poem is based.

Members had been invited to bring in poems by women poets of the later 20th century to read at the end of the meeting. These readings included poems by: Frances Wilson, Wendy Cope, A.C. Clarke, Gillian Clark, Sylvia Plath, Frieda Plath and Elizabeth Jennings.

Janet Cunliffe-Jones