Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

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Poems That Make Grown Men Cry: 100 Men on the Words That Move ThemPoems That Make Grown Men Cry: 100 Men on the Words That Move Them by Anthony Holden
Published: 2014
Length: 336 pages

This hyperbolic title reads a bit like Internet clickbait, but Anthony Holden explains in the introduction that the idea grew from discussions with his male friends of poems they couldn’t recite without choking up. Whether all of the men in this book wept at their choices, I cannot say, but I feel like some of them may have just chosen their favourite sentimental poem. Poems That Grown Men Quite Like doesn’t have that same punch, however.

It’s an interesting project, with the taboo of men showing emotion tackled head-on. I’m not a very emotive person in public. Leave me with sad film or song (though rarely books oddly) when I’m on my own, and I’ll whimper all night, but if there is anyone near me I will toss myself out the nearest window before they see the slightest quiver from my bottom lip. I’m not sure why I’m like this. I don’t look down on any other male for being emotional, and I wasn’t raised in a household that discouraged such things, but there you have it.

They choose 100 well-known men from around the world, though mostly British and white, to provide a poem that moves them to tears and a short explanation behind their choice. Some of the contributors include John le Carré, Sebastian Faulks, Stephen Fry, James Earl Jones, Kenneth Branagh, Christopher Hitchens, Patrick Stewart, Jeremy Irons, Salmon Rushdie, Daniel Radcliffe, Nick Cave, Colin Firth, Mark Haddon, and Ian McEwan. It’s an interesting mix of people, and after each entry it provides a small biographical paragraph in case you’re unfamiliar with the celebrity, which I needed quite a few times.

I’m not well-versed in poetry. Since starting this weblog five years ago, I think I’ve only read a few poetry collections, two of which were Bukowski. I love his poems, but he feels a bit Poetry 101, so I’ve been meaning to start reading more and branching out a bit. This felt like a perfect launching pad for that, with a good mix of poets and styles to try. Having the introductions made each poem feel like a personal recommendation.

I’ve marked my favourites from this collection, which I’ll return to, and I’ll maybe post some of them here in the next couple of months. Three poets I’ll definitely be reading more from are W.H. Auden, Tony Harrison, and Billy Collins, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for some poetry when we’re at Powell’s Books at the beginning of September. Recommendations are welcome!

I really enjoyed this collection. I just read a poem or two each night for a few months before reading my regular book, and I felt like that was a great way to consume poetry. It let me mull over what I’d read before moving on, whereas in the past I would occasionally fly through a collection without considering each poem. Some of these poems I loved, while others I couldn’t really connect with, but overall I really liked the format of the book.

2 thoughts on “Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

  1. Ruthiella

    Books can make me cry, for sure. I have a friend who wants to buddy read The Yearling with me next year and I am not sure I will be able to take it.

    But I have never understood poetry, so I don’t think I would tear up…although this sounds like it might be a good anthology to test this. Can you name a particular favorite of yours from it?

    The font and cover design of this collection remind me of the UK Pan Macmillan paperback re-issues of Cormac McCarthy’s body of work…I wonder if this is intentional. I have never read any McCarthy, but I have the impression (which could be wrong) that his books are very “masculine”.

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    1. Rob Post author

      You’re right, definitely reminiscent of McCarthy covers. I was thinking of the cover for True Grit when I saw it.

      I have a list of poems I’ll return to, but two I really enjoyed were Elegy by Chidiock Tichborne, where he supposedly wrote about his own wasted life the night before he was executed at 23, and Bedecked by Victoria Redel, where she stands up for her child’s right to be who he wants to be without society telling him it’s wrong.

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