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.

Poems by Julia Copus

Glimpses of Caribou - Julia Copus
Esprit de l’Escalier - Julia Copus
Love, Like Water - Julia Copus
A Soft-edged Reed of Light - Julia Copus
The Back Seat of My Mother’s Car - Julia Copus
Julia Copus in the Poetry Store

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.

Books by Julia Copus



Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

Forward Prize for Best First Collection (shortlisted) for The Shuttered Eye

Prize website

National Poetry Competition First Prize for Breaking the Rule

Prize website

BBC Alfred Bradley Bursary Award for Best New Radio Playwright, Eenie Meenie Macka Racka


Arts Council Writers' Award

Prize website
2005 - 08

Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Exeter University,


Poet in Residence at The Guardian


Forward Poetry Prize (Best Single Poem), 'An Easy Passage'

Prize website

Ghost Lines shortlisted for Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry

Prize website

Costa Book Awards (poetry category), shortlist, The World's Two Smallest Humans

Prize website

T S Eliot Prize, shortlist, The World's Two Smallest Humans

Prize website

Authors' Foundation Grant (Society of Authors)

Prize website