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What Happens to Girls

by Jennifer Copley
£10 (pub. 2020)


Jennifer Copley lives in Cumbria and is the author of 3 previous full collections of poetry as well as several pamphlets. Her poetry is widely published and has appeared in the Forward Prize anthology and set for GCSE Poetry Unseen revision papers. She has won many prizes including the Faber / Ottaker prize for poetry. These beguiling poems form her most daring and vibrant collection yet.

Praise for What Happens to Girls:

“To read Copley’s limpid, addictive poems is to be immersed in both the magical and the hyper-real. She’s a true original, matter-of-fact with wonders, slyly devastating, opening and closing chasms. It’s as if there is no such thing as the ordinary. Her touch is astonishingly sure, her work always a joy, and this is her deepest book.”

Moniza Alvi


“Copley’s straight-forward writing belies its complexity. In poems that are part fable, part cautionary tale, she shows a gift for particular everyday detail and unsettling narrative. Often it’s a voice from a childhood speaking to us with a surrealist’s sensibilities and an adult’s perceptions, creating worlds in which the unexpected jostles with the familiar. There is humour here and a dark playful- ness. You may not know where you’re being taken in these poems with their uncanny and elusive truths, but you can recognise real life becoming strange in the hands of an accomplished story-teller.”

Mike Barlow


“Copley’s work invites the reader to inhabit an alternative reality – one where we should expect the unexpected and where the border between the living and the dead is permeable. These poems are capable of both disturbing and charming the reader whilst remaining unforgettable in the way they subvert our expectations about violence, family and childhood.”

Kim Moore


The church smelled of mildew and dung
as the herd moved slowly down the aisle,
trunks to tails. They wore scarlet trappings
with their names on – Joy, Evelyn, Beth, Tara.

When they reached the communion table
they stopped and seemed to listen.
The organ was playing Mendelssohn.
Someone dialled the fire brigade

but the elephants stood without fuss or fear.
They looked so neat in the garden of their skins,
not even stirring the white linen cloth
or the feathers in Miss Sophie’s hat.

(from What Happens to Girls)

What Happens to Girls

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