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Julia Copus

Image by Caroline Forbes

Julia Copus

b. 1969

Some of the most turbulent moments in life through a sharp, clear lens. Maura Dooley

Love, Like Water

Julia Copus


Esprit de l'Escalier

Julia Copus


The Back Seat of My Mother's Car

Julia Copus


A Soft-edged Reed of Light

Julia Copus

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About Julia Copus

Julia Copus was born in London in 1969 and grew up in a house with three brothers who were learning to play musical instruments. Two of them later went on to be professional musicians, and Copus has said in interview that in order to have quiet, and a room of her own, she gave up her own trumpet lessons and moved into a caravan in the driveway while she was doing her exams. "For the first time, I truly began to feel that with a notepad and pen I could make my own world; could be whoever -and wherever - I wanted to be."

Copus studied Latin at Durham University, and in 1994, at the age of 24, she won an Eric Gregory Award. Her first full collection The Shuttered Eye, appeared from Bloodaxe a year later and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. The Shuttered Eye subtly reworks myth and fairytale to examine the fragility of childhood, and takes the reader through the fractures and complexities of familial relationships.

In Defence of Adultery (2003) explores the theme of roads that are taken, and considers the possibilities of rewinding time and choosing different roads. The winning poem of the 2002 National Poetry Competition, Breaking The Rule, is included in this collection. Copus often uses scientific metaphors to anchor the metaphysical, and she has explained in interview her particular interest in what quantum-physicists call 'shadow selves', whereby "in every choice we make our world splinters off from another world in which we made the other choice."

This second book also examines the geometries of love, its joys and hurts, and our defencelessness in the face of it. As the title poem begins, "We don't fall in love: it rises through us/the way that certain music does." And love is also like water, as you will hear on this Archive recording: "Tumbling from some far-flung cloud….ever so gently wounding us, making us whole." RV Bailey has written that "Copus has great leaping complex visions, but she's nevertheless reliably attached to reality, to the oddness, the innocent simplicity of things, especially as they relate to humans. Her poems are structured with immense quiet subtlety."

Copus's introductions to her poems on this Archive recording are both intimate and illuminating, and her voice is melodic, enabling us to enjoy the musicality and vibrancy of language of these intricately crafted poems.

This recording was made on the 5th February 2010 at the Audio Workshop London, and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.

Guided tours

Julia Copus

A tour of the Archive with Julia Copus

I've avoided poems that other writers here have recommended, but which otherwise would certainly have been on my list (such as Richard Wilbur's superb 'A Barred Owl', chosen by Andrew Motion)....

Selected bibliography

The World's Two Smallest Humans Faber, 2012

Walking in the Shadows Smith/Doorstop, 1994

The Shuttered Eye Bloodaxe Books, 1995

In Defence of Adultery Bloodaxe Books, 2003


1994 Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

1995 Hawthornden Fellowship

1997 (shortlist) Forward Prize for Best First Collection The Shuttered Eye

Prize website

2001 Arts Council Writers' Award

Prize website

2005 Arts Council Writers' Award

Prize website

2002 BBC Alfred Bradley Bursary Award (Best New Radio Playwright) Eenie Meenie Macka Racka

2002 BBC/Gulbenkian Writers Award

Prize website

2002 National Poetry Competition (First Prize - 'Breaking the Rule')

Prize website

2010 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem An Easy Passage

2012 (shortlist) T S Eliot Prize for The World's Two Smallest Humans

Prize website


Julia Copus

Julia Copus Reading from Her Poems

1Love, Like Water

2In Defence of Adultery

3Hymn to All the Men I'll Never Love

4Topsell's Beasts

5A Soft-edged Reed of Light

6This is the Poem in which I Have Not Left You

7The Back Seat of My Mother's Car

8Digging the Pond

9Easter Reunion

10Lamb's Electronic Antibiotic


12Glimpses of Caribou


14Moderate Restaurant Clatter


16Miss Haversham's Letter

16Soft Parts


19Stars Moving Westwards in a Winter Garden

20Esprit de l'Escalier

21An Easy Passage

22Impossible As It Seems

A tour of the Archive with David Almond

I love this archive. It's an important reminder that all literature has its roots in the human voice. Black print on...

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