Exchange of Letters by Wendy Cope

Dear M.,

I will find the time to write you a longer letter. But yes, a whole universe of yes, about us finding each other, and the whys of that. I’m lucky to have you, know you. Maybe, in a world of hurts, having you in my life is something that they got right.

I am not sure how I feel about beginnings, because I always seem to find myself in media res — I am certainly fond of places, spaces where something springs into being, but I have had difficulty with the act of starting something. Does that sound terribly crazy to you?

A longer letter. I promise. Until then, a poem.

Yours,
T.

Exchange of Letters
Wendy Cope

‘Man who is a serious novel would like to hear from a woman who is a poem’ (classified advertisement, New York Review of Books)

Dear Serious Novel,

I am a terse assured lyric with impeccable rhythmic flow, some apt and original metaphors, and a music that is all my own. Some people say I am beautiful.

My vital statistics are eighteen lines, divided into three-line stanzas, with an average of four words per line.

My first husband was a cheap romance; the second was Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanac. Most of the men I meet nowadays are autobiographies, but a substantial minority are books about photography or trains.

I have always hoped for a relationship with an upmarket work of fiction. Please write and tell me more about yourself.

Yours intensely,
Song of the First Snowdrop

Dear Song of the First Snowdrop,

Many thanks for your letter. You sound like just the kind of poem I am hoping to find. I’ve always preferred short, lyrical women to the kind who go on for page after page.

I am an important 150,000 word comment on the dreams and dilemmas of twentieth-century Man. It took six years to attain my present weight and stature but all the twenty-seven publishers I have so far approached have failed to understand me. I have my share of sex and violence and a very good joke in chapter nine, but to no avail. I am sustained by the belief that I am ahead of my time.

Let’s meet as soon as possible. I am longing for you to read me from cover to cover and get to know my every word.

Yours impatiently,
Death of the Zeitgeist

This is from Serious Concerns by Wendy Cope, published by Faber and Faber, 1992.

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