So lovely to hear Jilly Cooper on the radio this morning, talking about dogs, OF COURSE! It made me nostalgic for discovering her books for the first time, just getting lost in a book that didn’t make me cry, for once. I wouldn’t hide her books now, that probably said a lot about the pretentious moi of that time, so here’s a poem I wrote about her last year.
A love letter to Jilly Cooper
Angel Gabriel left me cold, all that too pure
for second hand goods stuff, and don’t get me started
on Jude. Keats felt like those boys who’d write my initials
again and again on their desks but never talk to me,
And was Shakespeare real? I was never quite sure,
but Heathcliff came for my heart every stormy night,
I could have been the one to cure him.
I think you understood that, which was why I chose
that book to hide yours in when I first found you.
I wasn’t sure what these books were. Were you
supposed to actually laugh at novels? And could
women get things so hopelessly wrong? And still live?
Admittedly I saw it happen all around me:
my parent’s friends getting drunk, my mother laughing
on the phone about it all, and then there was hair
drama, tennis matches, car prangs, second GandT’s,
children hugged too tightly or left too much alone,
chocolate bars missing, diets started, abandoned,
fistfuls of waist compared, good intentions started.
But that was real life. In novels, women either got it
right or died, on train tracks, or in rivers,
or were left to rot in dusty houses in the country
with husbands curiously maimed. But not your women.
No wonder I hid your books, they were my secret map
to a future, partying in London with dark haired men
who’d reach across to stroke my cheek laughing
when I got things wrong. I liked it. I liked them.
I wasn’t quite ready just yet though,
which made you even more delicious. I cut your photo
out of newspapers, read the gossip pages enough
to know that you were every one of your heroines
and possibly the heroes too, and not only were you
still alive, you were laughing about it all too.
How I loved you, pretending it was your books
I loved, but knowing all along it was you.