Poetry that makes grown men cry

You will have heard the phrase: “It’s enough to make a grown man cry.” Ben and Anthony Holden are a father/son duo who did a kind of ‘survey’ of men-who-cry over poetry.

The idea was to ask some very famous men whether there is a poem they
cannot read without breaking down.

For more on this story and more, including an excerpt from Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book…

The Holden duo told their contributors – all rather famous men – that it could be any poem at all, from Keats to a favourite nursery rhyme. What themes would emerge? Would it be thoughts of mortality? The carnage of war? Watching your child grow up and leave the nest?

The book is called Poems That Make Grown Men Cry: 100 Men on the Words that Move Them.

Here are some of the Men-Who-Cry, and the poems they chose:

Frank Kermode – “Unfinished Poem” by Philip Larkin

Richard Curtis – “A Call” by Seamus Heaney

Christopher Hitchens – “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen

Patrick Stewart – “God’s World” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

J.J. Abrams – “The Lanyard” by Billy Collins

Seamus Heaney – “The Voice” by Thomas Hardy

Richard Dawkins and Andrew Motion – “Last Poems: XL” by A.E. Housman

Robert Fisk and Julian Fellowes – “Remember” by Christina Rossetti

David Puttnam and Salil Shetty – “Let My Country Awake” by Rabindranath Tagore

Nick Cave – “The Widower in the Country” by Les Murray

Jack Mapanje – “The Book Burnings” by Bertolt Brecht

Anthony Holden (co-editor) – “A Good-Morrow” by John Donne

Ben Holden (co-editor) – “Those Who Are Near Me Do Not Know” by Rabindranath Tagore

Listen to the interview here.



2 thoughts on “Poetry that makes grown men cry

  1. Tarnished says:

    I don’t know if it’s counted as poetry per se, but my lover has cried when the song “Christmas Shoes” comes on the radio. Then again, I do too…


    It’s times when I see him cry that my heart beats for him even more.

  2. For me, there is one poem that holds far more than the words it is made of – Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas. My eyes are wet right now…


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