Father-and-son team Anthony and Ben Holden have followed up their successful anthology Poems That Make Grown Men Cry, with the female version. Working in partnership with Amnesty International, they have asked 100 remarkable women to choose a poem and tell them why it has moved them to tears.
The Amnesty collaboration is clear, many of the women chosen are activists in varying ways, which means the poems range outside the western world and many are translations.
Though Anthony Holden says, “Many more women than men told me they didn’t weep at anything,” these 100 women have shared beautiful, tough, heart-wrenching poems in the book.
The poems range from the classics – Emily Dickenson, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Keats, to unusual choices, and personal stories. Antonia Fraser shares the last poem her husband Harold Pinter wrote her. Claire Tomalin shares the farewell poem her 22 year old, Susanna, daughter wrote only months before killing herself.
Together this collection is haunting, uplifting, and does what poetry, according to the afterword by Sebastian Faulks, does best: “Linguists and neurologists have suggested that poetry speaks to a primitive part of the brain.”
Yes, Poems That Make Grown Women Cry could be called formulaic – co-editor Ben Holden comes from a film background and the so deliberate emotion provoking content makes sense – however, this a great book for those who are looking for new poets or those who don’t usually read poetry. Apart from the power and beauty of these poems, there is also something satisfying in taking a peek into these 100 remarkable women’s choices of tear-jerkers and it’s a pleasure on its own reading why they chose them.