The Shortest and Sweetest of Songs Come. Home. -George MacDonald
Tomorrow is World Poetry Day! The Guardian reports that a campaign “Pay with a Poem” an Austrian coffee roasting company, Julius Meinl, started last year has now spread to 34 countries that many coffee shops around the world will accept poetry as currency tomorrow. Oh, yes! You will get your coffee and pay your barista with a handwritten poem. Can it get cooler than that? Yes, it can! The Guardian reports: “Poet and conceptual artist Robert Montgomery will mark the occasion by collecting up all the public contributions and turning them into an art installation in a secret London location.”
So… check if you have a coffee shop near you that is participating in the campaign here and be there with your poem tomorrow morning! In the meantime, if you are a believer, like us, that poetry can make the world a better place, come celebrate World Poetry Day, a day early, with us!
We love poetry on Fan Fun with Damian Lewis. And, especially because Damian loves and actively supports poetry, we do our best to promote poetry! And, we cannot think of a better reason than World Poetry Day (March 21) to celebrate the wonderful world of poems!
One of the main poetry projects Damian supports is the Love Book project — including a book as well as an app — a brilliant collection of classic and contemporary love poems that vary from Shakespeare to E.E. Cummings to Maya Angelou.
This brilliant project is the brainchild of wonderful Allie Esiri who explains why love needs a book of poetry beautifully in the foreword to the book:
“It’s not easy to write a foreword for a book about love. The hardest thing is avoiding the cliches. They are everywhere, like drunk uncles at a wedding. Love is blind; love is all you need; love is all around; love means never having to say you’re sorry; love, love, love; let’s do it, let’s fall in love; love is a many-splendored thing. It really is one of the most abused four-letter words in the English language.
But this is precisely why love needs a book of poetry.”
Allie Esiri had her poetry corner at Cheltenham Literature Festival last October and one of the highlights was “Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory: Great Love Poems” followed by Esiri, Lewis and McCrory signing copies of the Love Book. In case you missed it, I wrote about this very original, lovely and SOLD OUT poetry event here earlier.
Ms. Esiri very kindly agreed to answer a few questions I had about the Love Book project as well as the poetry event with Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory.
Me: How and why did you start the poetry project, and in particular the Love Book project?
Allie Esiri: I had the idea for a poetry app in 2011. It became the iF Poems app. Helena Bonham Carter and Bill Nighy read on it. Then Tom Hiddleston and Harry Enfield joined it a few months later. An iF book anthology followed. Both were successful. So I thought, what next? And I thought an app about love would be fun. This time I’d include prose as well as poetry. So I’ve included love letters, quotes (if you are looking for something short!) and lyrics from songs, too. The book deal followed. Again this was unusual. Usually a book turns into a film, a TV show, an app. I like the fact that we are breaking the mould, doing new things in the literary space. We are on YouTube too. And Soundcloud.
The website is undergoing some work and will become a great home for if you are looking for a poem – for your wedding, broken heart, child, to help assuage a worry. Coming soon!
I asked Damian and Helen to come and read. I was very lucky they said yes. They are supporters of poetry. And what I’m doing. I promise I know how lucky I am to have their support! Aside from their incredible work on screen, they are two of the finest stage actors of their generation. They are brilliant verse speakers. Experienced and ridiculously talented.
I also love how they can find humour in a line.
Other readers on The Love Book app: Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hiddleston, Gina Bellman and Emma Watson.
Me: Why did you choose Damian and Helen for this particular event at Cheltenham Literature Festival? And, how were the poems chosen for the reading?
Allie Esiri: Why wouldn’t I ask Damian and Helen?! I just knew they would be amazing. Now it’s happened, don’t you agree?!
I wanted the poems to be in order, as if from the beginning to the end of a love affair. Rather than just a randomly ordered selection of poetry’s greatest hits. I know the poems well having chosen them to be in the book and the app. But it was a lot of work. I think it was worth it. And I’d like to do it again.
[Damianista’s Side note: I ABSOLUTELY agree! They were simply FANTASTIC. Lovely. Playful. Witty. They totally deserved those beautiful flowers! And my signed book is a total treasure!]
Me: How do you plan to reach younger generations? The poetry event at Cheltenham was simply fantastic, such a brilliant idea, however, it could be limited in its reach to younger generations. Do you plan to bring this to schools or university campuses?
Allie Esiri: I do go in to schools and universities too. I talk about poetry, how it is accessible, not scary. I read poems. I tell them about my journey. I show videos of the actors reading. I try and make it a little bit inspirational and a lot of fun. And of course it is educational along the way.
Ms. Esiri also very kindly shared with me the complete list of the poems from the poetry event. You can find the list in the order they were read by Lewis and McCrory here.
I am grateful to Ms. Esiri for taking the time in answering my questions, and the list of the poems. Wish her best of luck with her future projects!
Please check the Love Book website, Love Book Facebook page and follow @AllieEsiri on Twitter. Keep in mind that you can always hear Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory and other celebrities, including Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hiddleston and Emma Watson, reading poems on the Love Book app available on iTunes.
In closing, why don’t we enjoy a poem together? Here is To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marwell read by Damian Lewis — he, in fact, read this one at Cheltenham Literature Festival as well.
The video is not visually of the highest quality, but Damian reads beautifully with his “velvet with a hint of cabernet” voice — and credits go to JaniaJania for this PERFECT description of Damian’s voice!
Happy World Poetry Day! And if you can’t get enough of Damian Lewis reading poetry, check our other poetry posts here!