I originally picked up this collection of poems compiled and edited by Anthony and Ben Holden as part of research into a character I was in the process of developing at the time. The premise of the book is quite simple really; it is a collection of poems sorted in chronological order chosen by famous men with the criteria that it was chosen because it makes them cry. What I was looking for was a male perspective on poetry so that I could understand better the emotional connection that men make to poetry so that I could compare it to my own.
What I discovered is a collection of poems, accompanied by some heart wrenching stories about why a person can make a connection to a poem.
Anyone who is familiar with my reviews know that I don’t just critique a book or a film based on how well the characters were constructed and how interesting the story was written. I explore how that book or film made me feel. What I discovered on reading this book was a collection of emotion induced by poetry. It makes it stand out from other compilations of poetry I’ve read in my life. It wasn’t just a series of poems arranged by subject; it was an emotional journey and that is what poetry is supposed to be.
In addition to that, because the poems were personally selected and it wasn’t arranged by theme I actually found myself immersing myself in poetry in a way I don’t normally do when reading a thematic compilation. Usually I find myself drifting from one poem to another and they end up merging into one. Occasionally the book does become a bit thematic as the chronological order occasionally throws up a theme or two, especially around the date of World War One, but that hardly detracted from the book, in fact I felt the chronological order was a great strength.
I was able to re-discover a few old favourites that had been left forgotten in the dusty realms of my memory; poems like Walcott’s ‘Love After Love’, Housman’s ‘The Remorseful Day’, and Rossetti’s ‘Remember’. I was also able to find some new favourites especially from the two extreme ends of the chronological order such as Tichborne’s ‘Elegy’, De Quevedo’s ‘Amor constante más allá de la muerte’, Thomas’ ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’, Larkin’s ‘Aubade’, and Redel’s ‘Bedecked’.
I loved this book and everything I was able to take from it, whether it was for my research or just for my heart. I can’t wait for the companion volume ‘Poems that make grown women cry’.