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Wendy Cope at Poetry East… and Dr Johnson meets Dr Janssen

A very pleasant evening last night in the company of Wendy Cope at Poetry East at the London Buddhist Centre. I’ve known of her poetry since picking up a copy of her first (1986) collection, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, drawn – as for many I imagine – by its title. What a terrific poet she is, often using traditional forms and rhyme, which really work at drawing you in as the listener and leaving you with memorable images. I’d never come across the villanelle form before (well, I had, but hadn’t known it – ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ by Dylan Thomas is an example), and loved its rhythm and repetition – ‘Keep saying this’ is typical of Cope’s apparent lightness yet which carries a power and poignancy just beneath:

Keep saying this and don’t forget: Although you think you’re very old, The party isn’t over yet.

When asked about the purpose of literature, she quoted Dr. Johnson – “The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”

Non-solution-focused readers have permission to finish reading this post here – as a final note – check out Wendy Cope’s poems, and check out the regular Poetry East nights at the London Buddhist Centre.

Solution-focused readers – as I heard Dr Johnson’s quote, I thought of the wonderful Belgian solution-focused therapist, Danny Janssen, and thought, maybe it isn’t either enjoying life or enduring it, maybe it’s both/and. We usually just use a 0 to 10 scale with our clients, whereas Danny sometimes adds a -10 to 0 one too. I shall let Danny speak for himself – here is what he posted to a solution-focused discussion list back in 2008 –

“Imagine I am seeing a client who went through an ordeal in the past. I could invite him to tell me where he would position himself on a scale of -10 to 0, -10 being the moment when his suffering was at the maximum and 0 being not suffering any more. After exploring what made him move from -10 towards x, I could go on asking him to position himself on a 0 to +10 scale , 0 being not able 10 most able to get things right in his life in spite of the past. It is my experience that suffering/coping and surviving/enjoying can go hand in hand”.

How wonderful is that? Dr Johnson? Meet Dr Janssen.

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