Since her bestselling debut Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis was published in 1986, Wendy Cope has been responsible for some of the best-known and most-quoted lines in contemporary poetry.
Born in Erith, Kent in 1945, Cope studied history at Oxford University, then spent 15 years as a primary school teacher before becoming a professional writer. She was arts and reviews editor for education magazine Contact, then in 1986 became a television columnist for the Spectator, the same year Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis arrived.
Cope's skillful use of parody can be seen at its best in her condensed version of TS Eliot's weighty masterwork The Waste Land, which she turned into five limericks. Through her observations of humankind Cope also identified the 'tump' (typically useless male poet), and honours his spirit through the poems she creates as her alter-ego, the fictional Jason Strugnell, struggling suburban poet.
Technically skilled, Cope employs the full range of traditional rhymed forms, from Villanelles to triolets. Her principal subject is relationships. Before Bridget Jones cornered the market in singleton angst, Cope was memorably identifying the pitfalls for the unattached. As the title of her second collection Serious Concerns indicated, the verse might be light but the anxieties Cope addressed could be weighty. Beneath the jaunty wit of A Christmas Poem lies an all-too-real seasonal horror story: 'And happy families go to church and cheerily they mingle/ And the whole business is unbelievably dreadful, if you're single.'
Bloody men are like bloody buses
The Nation's Favourite Poet