Teaching Notes on ‘Bloody men’ by Wendy Cope

Poems provide excellent practice, lead to a significant amount of discussion, and can significantly improve the students speaking and reading skills. They are also excellent in helping to reinforce good intonation patterns and ensure that word stress is correctly placed.

This poem is one that can be used very effectively with adults, and of course it is particularly suitable for a class that of women!

The word bloody is generally a very mild expletive these days and although children might have got told off for using it in the past, today parents are probably just pleased that it isn’t anything worse. In other words, since it is something that learners might hear (at least in an English-speaking country), it’s a word that is worth making them aware of. Students are often confused about the level and power of expletives and so it may be helpful to make them aware that this one is not too strong in many cases.

There are a range of possible steps that you can follow with a poem. Here are a few suggestions with this poem.

  1. The title of a poem is often a good starting point but in this case it may be better to come back to it at a later point. After looking at the poem itself, the students will be able to explain the title.
  2. Ask the students about their own experiences of waiting for bus in the UK. Does this differ from waiting for buses in their home country?
  3. What are the differences between travelling by bus in the UK and in their home countries?
  4. The fact that in the UK there are long gaps followed by several buses is a curiosity much remarked upon! Ask the students whether this also happens in their home country. If not, why not?
  5. Give them the first verse with the last word of line 4 deleted. Tell them that it rhymes with year. Can they guess what the missing word is?
  6. Read the first verse aloud to the students. Ask them about the comparison between men and buses.
  7. Repeat the process with verse two, again removing the last word of the 4th line. Can they guess what it is?
  8. Read the second verse aloud. Ask them about the meaning of flashing, indicators, destination in terms of buses and teach words as necessary.
  9. Ask them about the ‘real’ meaning in the poem of flashing their indicators, offering you a ride, the destination in terms of men.
  10. Repeat the same steps for the 3rd verse. Can they guess the final word of the poem?
  11. Make sure they understand the expressions turning back and gaze.
  12. With the class, consider the meaning of jump off (in terms of the poem). Also what do the words cars, taxis, lorries refer to?
  13. Teach the word metaphor (if the students don’t already know it) and establish that this is essentially a metaphorical poem relating about dating men.
  14. This is a simple but very clever poem that moves from the obvious to the serious to the common dilemma of women (You haven’t much time to decide) to a final verse that touches on personal grief (the minutes, the hours, the days). With some classes it would be interesting to see if they could write a 4th verse!
  15. It would be interesting to then go on and look at another poem based on metaphor and compare the images in that one with this poem by Wendy Cope.
  16. One interesting activity with a short poem is to start by giving it to the class in jumbled order. You would need to tell them the form of the poem (the number of lines per verse / the position of rhyming words). This is an activity that many students really enjoy and with the right poem it can be an excellent starting point.

Bloody men by Wendy Cope

Bloody men are like bloody buses –
You wait for about a year
And as soon as one approaches your stop
Two or three others appear.

You look at them flashing their indicators,
Offering you a ride.
You’re trying to read the destination,
You haven’t much time to decide.

If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze
While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by
And the minutes, the hours, the days.