Poems That Make Grown Men Cry: 100 Men on the Words That Move Them
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A life-enhancing tour through classic and contemporary poems that have made men cry: “The Holdens remind us that you don’t have to be an academic or a postgraduate in creative writing to be moved by verse….It’s plain fun” (The Wall Street Journal).
Grown men aren’t supposed to cry…Yet in this fascinating anthology, one hundred men—distinguished in literature and film, science and architecture, theater and human rights—confess to being moved to tears by poems that continue to haunt them. Although the majority are public figures not prone to crying, here they admit to breaking down, often in words as powerful as the poems themselves.
Their selections include classics by visionaries, such as Walt Whitman, W.H. Auden, and Philip Larkin, as well as modern works by masters, including Billy Collins, Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, and poets who span the globe from Pablo Neruda to Rabindranath Tagore. The poems chosen range from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first, with more than a dozen by women, including Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Their themes range from love in its many guises, through mortality and loss, to the beauty and variety of nature. All are moved to tears by the exquisite way a poet captures, in Alexander Pope’s famous phrase, “what oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d.”
From J.J. Abrams to John le Carré, Salman Rushdie to Jonathan Franzen, Daniel Radcliffe to Nick Cave to Stephen Fry, Stanley Tucci to Colin Firth to the late Christopher Hitchens, this collection delivers private insight into the souls of men whose writing, acting, and thinking are admired around the world. “Everyone who reads this collection will be roused: disturbed by the pain, exalted in the zest for joy given by poets” (Nadine Gordimer, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature).
Philip Larkin. He is also president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The many publications of the ethologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (b. 1941) include The Selfish Gene (1976), The Extended Phenotype (1982), The Blind Watchmaker (1986), River Out of Eden (1995), The God Delusion (2006) and a memoir, An Appetite for Wonder (2013). Professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University from 1995 to 2008, he is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford. In
the concentrated pathos of its landscape, the Oxford setting so very like Virgil’s lugetes campos, the weeping fields. The moment that melts my eyes is towards the end, when the young woman in the canoe is pictured as making her journey alone in the future, because the narrator will not be with her. At that point, the story is already clinched; he has, we think, foreseen his death, although the poem would have remained powerful even if he had got back, grown old and died in bed. But in a poem
house and another Chimneys spout ashy crowds Warmth effuses from gleaming trees Lingering on the wretched cigarette stubs Low black clouds arise From every tired hand In the name of the sun Darkness plunders openly Silence is still the story of the East People on age-old frescoes Silently live forever Silently die and are gone Ah, my beloved land Why don’t you sing any more Can it be true that even the ropes of the Yellow River towmen Like sundered lute-strings Reverberate no more
corpse dredged from a canal in Berlin’ makes me and my body the field of action. I can’t read these lines without tears in my eyes. What do I sell when ‘I’m the woman who sells for a boat ticket’, when ‘I’m a woman bargaining for a chicken’? The fragility of the individual is present as victim and perpetrator – what is right and wrong in the midst of desperation, when ‘I’m accused of child – death’? Rich makes us fully present – ‘I am standing here in your poem’. Each one of us is not innocent
are about each one of us’. The poet’s insights are transmitted to the reader. It’s a two-way creative process that liberates and enlightens both parties, and it lies at the crux of why our human right to freedom of expression is so important. Tom McCarthy puts it well: ‘. . . how people struggle to connect with art. And how the artist struggles to connect with his audience and remain true to . . . well, the truth. Regardless of the side you play for, citizen or artist, the need to reach out, to