Poems That Make Grown Men Cry: 100 Men on the Words That Move Them by Anthony Holden
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.