The World’s Two Smallest Humans
Published by Faber and Faber, 2012
There is an extraordinary moment during the IVF process when the embryologist walks into the treatment room with your live embryos attached to the end of a pipette. In she walks, in a little scrub cap and tunic, looking more like a cake seller than someone who is carrying in her latex-gloved hands the smallest human beings possible. Moments later, those same beings are transferred to the patient’s womb to do their best.
In another sense, any relationship between two people (be they parent and child, lovers or confidants) recasts them as the world’s two smallest humans – vulnerable, incidental and, against the sheer scale of things, very small indeed. The human pairs in this book play out their stories on many different stages: houses , pubs, gardens, a room in a fertility clinic, lodgings in an 18th century spa town near Vienna, and a Byzantine chamber in a tower by the Hellespont!
Copus’s ample stanzas give us a world as intensely realised as a novel, in which life itself seems to be taking place. […] What Copus’s poems of time and change propose runs counter to contemporary habits: hope, they say, is worth the candle, and this quietly powerful, deeply felt book ends with an affirmative for the future: “I give myself over, shell and shelter, / child, my own.
This is a beautiful, arresting, sympathetic collection. […] There is something about the control, the high resolution, that gives this collection its special, contradictory emotional mixture: it is elegiac and buoyant… The wonder of these poems is that although they could hardly be more personal – childhood; the end of an affair; a sequence on IVF treatment – there is no self-indulgence and no sense, for the reader, of being an intruder.
A lyrical and majestic collection that tells a very personal story.
Julia Copus demonstrates both technical virtuosity and autobiographical courage in The World’s Two Smallest Humans. A tremendous book.
A master poet at work. With a characterful blend of the heart-felt and the experimental, delivered in language that is never less than pin-sharp, it is one of the most striking volumes of the year.
Warm, human and readable, without the wilful opacity of so much modern poetry.
In The World’s Two Smallest Humans, Julia Copus has created a compelling, claustrophobic world which tests and questions the limits of human significance. Copus skilfully evades the easy answer to create a troubling sense of uncertainty. Hero and Leander were just another pair of young lovers, yet the story testifies to the value of human endeavour, which leaves us richer, even in tragedy.