Julia Copus is often described as a musical poet, a characteristic she shares with her three brothers who are all professional musicians. Combining sentiment with science, her poems achieve a critical balance between intensity and hope without underestimating the irreversible impact that events can have on our future. Her subtle rewriting of fairytale is symptomatic of the fragility of childhood, and the choices that are made for us. This is emphasised through Copus’ invented poetic form, the specular, of which ‘The Back Seat of My Mother’s Car’ is a noted example, encapsulating the grief of a separation between father and child.
Copus explores the complexities of family in her first collection The Shuttered Eye which traces and marks absence in its many forms — in distance, unsettlement and in death. The poems here are arranged as a sequence of snapshots and memories, illustrating the consequences of ruptured relationships, and giving shape to the emotions that a camera lens cannot capture and the detail that may be deliberately excluded.
In her following collection, In Defence of Adultery, Copus continues her consideration of the past and the selection process by which we direct our lives. Having a deep interest in ‘shadow selves’ — or the alternative self born of a different decision — Copus presents us with a parallel narrative, the life that may have been. In this way, she encourages that we are all “vessels of the possible”.
Julia Copus was born in London in 1969 and studied Latin at Durham University. In 1994, she won an Eric Gregory Award and in the same year a pamphlet, Walking in the Shadows, was published. Julia Copus’s collections include The Shuttered Eye (1995) which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and In Defence of Adultery (2003) — both Poetry Book Society Recommendations.
Copus has won a number of awards for her poetry, including an Arts Council of England Writer’s Award, a Hawthornden Fellowship, and a BBC/Gulbenkian Foundation writer’s bursary. In 2002, she won First Prize in the National Poetry Competition with ‘Breaking the Rule’. Her radio work includes an afternoon play, Eenie Meenie Macka Racka (2003) which was winner of the BBC’s Alfred Bradley Award. A new play, The Enormous Radio, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in July 2008. She is currently an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund, and an Honorary Fellow at the University of Exeter.
The Shuttered Eye, Bloodaxe, Newcastle, 1995
In Defence of Adultery, Bloodaxe, Newcastle, 2003
Brilliant Writing Tips for Students, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2009
Read Julia’s winning poem of the 2002 National Poetry Competition, ‘Breaking the Rule’
Julia Copus interviewed by Lidia Vianu
Julia’s page on the Bloodaxe website
A review of In Defence of Adultery in Magma
Julia interviewed by the Poetry Society
Julia’s page on the British Council contemporary writers website