What a lovely way to discover new poems this book is. The title is deliberately provocative and makes you (well me) say to yourself ‘Well that didn’t make me cry’ after reading each selection. In fact none of them made me cry or even become slightly teary which may say more about me than the poetry. There are some very touching and sad poems included here such as ‘An Exequy’ by Peter Porter,’Love After Love’ by Derek Walcott, ‘It is Here (For A)’ by Harold Pinter and ‘For Andrew Wood’ by James Fenton.
More often I was left thoughtful as I was after reading ‘Crusoe in England’ by Elizabeth Bishop and Rilke’s ‘Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes’
I found the presentation of each poem distracting, with its title and author followed by an introduction by the person who selected it, then the text and finally a brief biography of the selector. The poems often seemed lost in that mass of information.
Having said that the introductions are as much what this book is about as the poems and in many occasions are very revealing and emotional in themselves. About his choice, Melvyn Bragg says,
For me it paints a picture of my thoughts and feelings when I think of my first wife, who took her life more than forty years ago. I feel as responsible, as guilty, and as ashamed now as I was then.
Other notably affecting introductions are by Clive James’ to ‘Canoe’ by Keith Douglas and Richard Rogers’ heartbreaking explanation of the poem Craig Raine sent him and his wife Ruth after the death of their son.