‘Lonely Hearts’ is one of Wendy Cope’s poems in which the poet takes an ironic stance while talking about love and relationships in the modern era. This piece presents a speaker who is in search of a perfect life partner. Her list includes but is not limited to various prerequisites. The ironic fact is that she is available for all the options she presents in the poem. Be it a gay, straight, or singleton of the twenties, the speaker desperately needs a partner to begin an unknown journey. Without knowing what is there in the future, fascinates Cope’s speaker.
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‘Lonely Hearts’ by Wendy Cope is an ironic poem that reveals how a speaker is desperately searching for a life partner in a newspaper column.
This poem begins with a speaker asking others whether they can find her a perfect partner. Her simple wish deals with only finding a partner with whom she can start a relationship. The speaker is middle-aged and has a son. She is inexperienced, cold, and fascinated by a new beginning. Her partner can be a biker or a gay vegetarian with few friends. She is also a lonely soul and takes interest in music and Shakespeare’s poetry. The partner can be an executive who is searching for a bisexual woman with arty looks. Whatsoever, all she wants is a partner who resides in North London.
You can read the full poem here.
Wendy Cope’s ‘Lonely Hearts’ is a villanelle. There are a total of nineteen lines. The first and third lines of the first tercet are repeated alternatively throughout the poem. A villanelle contains two repeating lines or rhymes that reoccur through the tercets. The quatrain in the ending contains both of these lines. So, the rhyme scheme of the tercets is ABA and the quatrain contains an ABAA rhyme scheme. The poet does not use the regular rhyming pattern. In a few instances, readers can find the use of slant rhymes. The overall poem is written in iambic pentameter. It means there five beats per line.
The following list contains the literary devices used in Wendy Cope’s ‘Lonely Hearts’.
- Rhetorical Question: The refrains that are used in this villanelle are rhetorical questions. For example: “Can someone make my simple wish come true?” and “Do you live in North London? Is it you?”
- Alliteration: It occurs in the following phrases: “make my,” “female for,” “friends are few,” etc.
- Irony: Readers can find the use of irony in this line “I’m Libran, inexperienced and blue”. This line ironically reveals the opposite.
- Allusion: The line “I’m into music, Shakespeare and the sun” contains an allusion to the maestro’s sonnets.
- Asyndeton: The absence of conjunction or asyndeton occurs in “Perhaps bisexual woman, arty, young.”
Can someone make my simple wish come true?
Male biker seeks female for touring fun.
Wendy Cope’s ‘Lonely Hearts’ presents a speaker who is lonely and scrolling through the lines of a lonely heart column of a newspaper. This section of any newspaper contains a list of singletons who are in search of a partner. Those who fail to find one directly take recourse to this column. Cope’s speaker or poetic persona is one such lady who is in search of a perfect or near-perfect partner.
She asks whether her wish will come true or not. Readers have to go through the entire text to understand if her wish is going to come true.
Cope writes this poem in the style of scrolling a list and thinking about the contents of the list. Her speaker is perhaps looking at a single’s column and reading it aloud to her. While the rhetorical questions are her mental introspections. In the first tercet, she finds a male biker who is looking for females who like riding. The speaker asks whether he lives in North London. If he does not she has to find someone else.
In the second tercet, she finds a guy who is gay and a vegetarian. He also leads a lonely life. Otherwise, there is no need to advertise in a singleton’s column. The speaker tries to match herself with this person by saying she likes music and Shakespearean poetry. It is a roundabout way of saying she has none to spend time with. Therefore, she listens to music and reads poetry in her past time.
Executive in search of something new—
Perhaps bisexual woman, arty, young.
In the third tercet, an advert from an executive grabs her attention. The person is in search of something new. This line is satirical. It refers to the fact that the executive has been in a conventional relationship. Now he wants some fun. That’s why he is posting an ad in the column to find a partner to have a romp with.
The speaker thinks he might be in search of a bisexual, arty, and young woman. Such requirements do not match with the speaker’s present state. However, as she also needs some fun in her life, she asks whether this executive fellow lives somewhere near North London. If the answer is yes, she can give this option a try.
She is rather fascinated with the person. For this reason, she keeps on thinking about his preferences. She wonders whether he needs a successful, straight, and solvent woman. Readers can find the repetition of the “s” sound in this line.
She affirms what she has just said. Furthermore, she says she is an attractive Jewish with a son. This line gives readers a hint about the age of the lady. She is lonely but not alone. Still, she needs some change in her life. Even a change like the executive will work in her case. In this way, Cope portrays how a relationship starts in modern times.
I’m Libran, inexperienced and blue—
Need slim, non-smoker, under twenty-one.
In this section of ‘Lonely Hearts,’ Cope gives some more description regarding the speaker. The lady is a Libran. Readers have to focus on two words in this line, “inexperienced” and “blue”. The first word refers to the fact that the speaker might be lonely for some time. It can also be a reference to her coquettish attitude. Besides, the term “cold” describes her physical emotions that have cooled down due to prolonged inactivity.
She says she needs a slim and twenty-one years old young man. He should be a non-smoker. Though the speaker is not probably in her twenties, she needs someone far younger than her. If some young person is living near North London, he can contact and write back to her with a photo.
None can tell where a relationship will lead to. But, it is always enthralling while starting something new. In the case of Cope’s speaker, she wants to kickstart her relationship with a young man. However, she is thinking about whether she can find a perfect match or not. That’s why Cope uses the refrains to portray her speaker’s desperation and doubt.
Wendy Cope’s ‘Lonely Hearts’ was first published in The Times Literary Supplement (TLS) in 1979. Later the poem was included in her book of poetry “Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis”. The book was published in 1986. It is among the five collections of her adult poetry. In this poem, Cope talks about how the magic of finding the right match vanishes due to extreme physicality. Now people look at their prospective partner by their taste, external attributes, and physicality. Cope’s speaker is one such lady who is in search of a partner who can please her body, not her mind.
Explore more Wendy Cope poems.
Wendy Cope’s ‘Lonely Hearts’ was first published in 1979. It was included in Cope’s adult poetry collection “Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis” in 1986.
This poem is about a lonely speaker who is in search of a partner. She looks through the lonely hearts column of a newspaper and tries to find one who lives in North London.
Cope’s ‘Lonely Hearts’ is a villanelle. It is written in a regular ABA rhyme scheme. The meter of this piece is iambic pentameter.
The poet uses repetition to portray the speaker’s desperation while finding a partner and her doubt whether she can find a perfect partner in North London or not.
This poem taps on the themes of modern relation, loneliness, and physicality.
The following list contains a few poems that similarly tap on the themes present in Wendy Cope’s ‘Lonely Hearts’.
- ‘The Lonely Soul’ by Raphael Armattoe – This poem speaks on the emotion of loneliness through two characters. Explore more Raphael Armattoe poems.
- ‘I Am Lonely’ by George Eliot – This piece tells of a speaker’s dismay over the departure of a beloved younger sister that has left her lonely. Read more George Herbert poems.
- ‘First Love: A Quiz’ by A.E. Stallings – This poem describes how adolescent girls are betrayed in love by lustful men. Read more A.E. Stallings poems.
- ‘A Dreaming Week’ by Carol Ann Duffy – It’s one of the best-known poems of Carol Ann Duffy. This piece explores how Duffy’s except into fantasy, linked closely with her love of poetry. Explore more Carol Ann Duffy poems.