Poems that make grown men cry

image-smallPoems That Make Grown Men Cry is an anthology of some of the most emotive lines in literature chosen by 100 famous and admired men, ranging from Daniel Radcliffe to Nick Cave, John le Carre and Jonathan Franzen.

It will be published this April and the editors of the collection are journalist and biographer Anthony Holden and his film-producer son, Ben. The book aims to introduce male readers to unfamiliar works and contributor Simon Schama has tweeted about his choice, WH Auden’s Lullaby, the poem that opens with the words “Lay your sleeping head, my love, Human on my faithless arm.” Auden turns out to be the overall winner in this unusual competition to bring men to tears with the power of a pen. He has been selected five times for different poems in the anthology. Thomas Hardy, AE Housman and Philip Larkin are in joint second place.

Many of the poems are about the loss of a child or parent. Speaking last week on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek programme, Professor John Carey revealed he found his own choice, Ben Jonson’s farewell poem to his dead child, On My First Sonne, “impossible to read without breaking down at the early moment where the poet appears to turn to speak to his son with the words, “My sin was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy.”

The book aims to raise money for Amnesty International  and to ‘break down traditional ideas of “manhood” as an emotion-free zone’. “Gender stereotyping is dangerous because it represses ability and ambition, encourages discrimination and upholds social inequalities that are often a root cause of violence,” said Kate Allen, the British director of the charity. “We hope that this anthology will encourage boys, in particular, to know that crying – and poetry – isn’t just for girls.”

The collection will be launched at the National  Theatre on 29 April. Contributors including Melvyn Bragg, Ian McEwan and Simon Russell Beale will read their selected poems. Among those praising the idea of the book are former newspaper editor Harold Evans, actor Simon Callow and the novelist Maggie Gee, who said she was intrigued to hear that there might be a second volume in which women are invited to choose a moving poem. More in the Guardian