Each week when I read something and decide to review it, I find the task difficult. Someone will always ask me, “what book should I start with?” and – much like each review – I always have to consider the answer because the books that move me, might not necessarily move you. Each book I love, I tend to stumble upon it at a particular place and time; it finds its way into my life, as do all the greatest, unexpected moments of happiness, quite by accident. It’s all part of the process of the wonder of discovering a brilliant story. And so I find it hard to simply “give” a book, for the choosing of one, is in itself such a personal process.
I’m not sure the same can be said of poetry; it isn’t something I feel is as easy to come upon – my favourite poems were all introduced to me, I didn’t find them myself. And by this admission, I always enjoy recommending poetry to others, and this week especially, am delighted to recommend Poems That Make Grown Women Cry edited by Anthony and Ben Holden. Following the success of their anthology Poems That Make Grown Men Cry, father-and-son team, working with Amnesty International, have asked the same question of 100 exceptional women: What poem has moved you to tears?
This remarkable read was re-released to mark a week quite rightfully, revolving around women, and on top of that, it is the perfect ‘poetry for beginners’ collection.
Its premise is a simple one: a hundred women — distinguished in literature and film, science and law, theatre and human rights — share poems that have stayed with them long after reading. These poems aren’t just for women; they are for anyone who wishes to be moved by a piece of art. From the themes of love and loss, mystery, war and peace, right through to nature they each make for a beautiful read.
There are poems from the eighth century to today, from Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, W.H. Auden to Yoko Ono to Judi Dench, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Michelle Williams. Their selections include classics by Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman as well as contemporary works from Seamus Heaney and Warsan Shire, with introductions – a line, a paragraph – as to why they were so affected by the work (these segments are as excellent as the poems themselves).
Whether you’re already a poetry fan or you don’t read a lot, this collection will expose you to wonderful works admired by wonderful women. It belongs on your bookshelf.
Poems That Make Grown Women Cry edited by Anthony and Ben Holden (Simon & Schuster, approx. €12.99) is out now.