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on 11 November 2016
I haven't read poetry for so many years but ever since I've purchased this book I have become more interested in it. Ever so often I pick up this book and read one or two, some of them have actually made me cry. It's a nice collection. Some of the poems I've never heard of so it was great to discover them. I also like the stories that go with the poems. I think this would also make a good audio book.
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on 30 July 2017
Good rational. Good choices, although sometimes surprising and occasionally pretentious.
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on 12 September 2015
I loved the eclectic mix of choices from the contributors. It was interesting, too, to read their reasons for their choices.
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on 26 July 2017
Interesting selection - some unusual ones. The back stories will also make you cry.
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on 19 April 2016
Excellent, opened my mind to poetry not all of which had even heard of. Very grateful for the work that went into bringing together this collection.
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on 27 April 2017
Excellent
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on 18 May 2017
And pull out at inappropriate occasions. Those poems that don't move you you can always revisit. Edited with care. Recommended.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 11 April 2014
It could be argued that the concept behind this book is at best a rather clever marketing mechanism to get readers to purchase an anthology of poetry when the bookshelves are littered with them (some very much cheaper than this). Anthony Holden has however performed a real service to readers. Granted there are many well known poems present including Shakespearian sonnets, the big hitters of Coleridge, Wordsworth and Shelley plus a good smattering of the brilliance of the Great War poets. But the choices by a range of famous authors, literary figures, celebs and of course the obligatory Stephen Fry deserve the widest possible airing. Holden was encouraged in his task by the eminent Professor John Carey who in a note imbued with solid common sense argued that "It will bring some good poems to public notice and it will stimulate debate about the emotional power of art and how it affects different people," Frankly whether you are a man (a women's volume is to follow) or whether you "cry" is a side show. What is important is the sheer power and grace of these words and verse with their ability to land an emotional punch that completely outmatches any physical equivalent.

In terms of content it is English poets who unsurprisingly dominate proceedings with W H Auden putting in a great showing. In particular he is chosen by Salman Rushdie ("In Memory of W B Yeats"), Simon Schama and Simon Callow ("If I could tell you"), Rowan Williams ("Friday's Child") and William Boyd choosing the glorious beauty "A Summer Night". In addition Hardy, Housemen and Larkin are also well in the frame. It is reassuring to see that the sadly departed and much missed contrarian Christopher Hitchens was able to pick a poem before he died and he choose very well with Wilfred Owens staggering "Dulce et Decorum est". This resonates even more strongly in this 100th Anniversary Year of the outbreak of the Great War and those deeply painful lines chronicling a putrid gas attack speak with more profundity than larger history volumes of the horror encountered. The sheer force of those immortal lines should be etched to memory "If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood, Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud, Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, My friend, you would not tell with such high zest, To children ardent for some desperate glory,The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est, Pro patria mori". Hitchens rightly argues that Owens tragically short life and his four published poems are "the most powerful single rebuttal of Auden's mild and sane claim that "Poetry makes nothing happen". For this reviewer it was also a joy to be reacquainted with Emily Dickinson's short and moving poem in search of closure "After Great Pain" chosen by Douglas Kennedy. The lines "This is the hour of lead, Remembered if outlived, So Freezing persons recollect the Snow - First Chill - the stupor - then the letting go" are hard to read for anyone who has experienced the deep hurt of grief. It was equally a joy to come across poems for the first time not least the John N Morris "For Julia in Deep Water" chosen by Tobias Wolff charting the growth of a child from claw like needing to finally that desolation of letting them go into the wider world.

This review could go on but one final reflection. In the introduction to his choice of Wendell Berry's "A Meeting" the Irish author Colum McCann describes a favourite thing at Christmas-time. "I ask my kids to learn a poem off by heart to "give" to me rather than a pair of socks or yet another scarf" It's my favourite moment of the whole year". It also begs the question why don't we all follow his splendid lead and make this anthology a key source for initiating a new national tradition.

PS - In the spirit of GlynLuke's excellent review above the poem this reviewer would have included is "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost
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on 17 October 2015
This is a great idea and gives an insight into some surprising choices and effects.
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on 14 September 2015
Just lovely: very affecting, the justification for the choosing of particular texts is interesting and illuminating. A book as much about the psychology of the chooser as the poems themselves.
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