Top positive review
41 people found this helpful
on 10 April 2014
Perhaps taking its cue from the magnificent, extensive and unpredictable 1992 anthology The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart - subtitled Poems for Men, compiled and edited by Robert Bly and friends - this book is a nicely eclectic mixture of the expected, the fairly well-known, and the downright obscure, the latter being, at least for me, the main draw of this well-intentioned anthology.
The format does the book few favours. It`s a little confusing in some cases (except where blatantly obvious) as to who is the poet and who the contributor. There are 100 of the latter, ranging from Dawkins and Rushdie, Daniel Radcliffe and Barry Humphries, to Jeremy Irons and Simon Callow. No, Callow has not, I`m mightily relieved to say, chosen the over-anthologised Funeral Blues by Auden (mercifully, nobody has been so obvious) but rather the same poet`s Lullaby.
Dawkins and Andrew Motion both went for Housman, while before he died Christopher Hitchens plumped for Wilfred Owen. Seamus Heaney, before his more recent death, chose Hardy`s The Voice. Hardy and Houseman figure heavily here, and quite rightly too, Hardy`s famous The Darkling Thrush being an expected but nonetheless welcome inclusion.
Actor Kenneth Branagh has, to my surprise and delight, nominated a passage from Peer Gynt, while there had to be someone who `bucked the rules`, so we get the final section of Joyce`s verbally hungry novel Finnegans Wake.
I`m very glad to see Christopher Logue represented, chosen by veteran Liverpool poet Brian Patten, as he`s in grave danger of neglect.
Rosetti, Tagore, Larkin and Keats, as well as Coleridge`s marvellous Frost at Midnight, are all here, along with much else besides.
One poem I am overjoyed to see here, picked by film director Walter Salles, is Cavafy`s rightly renowned Ithaka, a wonderful poem which is something of an odyssey in itself.
The book`s cover isn`t as eye-catching as it might be, and the whole enterprise, though admirable, sadly tends to look like just one more crowd-pleasing poetry anthology to add to the many similar ones on the market, such as Poetry Please or Poems on the Underground. But it will be a pity if this doesn`t sell a lot of copies - as I believe it will - since so many of the poems nominated by the hundred men who were asked to contribute are genuinely interesting, let alone moving.
Whether you will be moved to tears or not is another matter.
Oh, and there`s one for women being compiled as we speak - not, of course, that this one is only aimed at men.
I was disappointed, though not surprised, that my own `poem that makes this grown man cry` is not here, namely Those Winter Sundays by the American poet Robert Hayden (seek it out, it`s quietly shattering) but there`s enough to interest both the poetry novice and poetry lover.
There are countries (in Eastern Europe, for example) where it is not a particularly novel sight to see someone reading poetry in public, say on a train or bus. It`s a rare sight in Britain, alas. Considering our poetic/literary heritage, that`s such a shame. If this book were to change that, even a little, I`d be the first to applaud.
Yet another poetry anthology...but there are gems galore inside.