February is the month of LOVE and poetry is one of the most beautiful ways to express love… 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, 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.
It is always a pleasure to talk about the Love Book project and an absolutely delightful Love Book event that I was extremely lucky to attend in October 2014 at Cheltenham Literature Festival: Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory read Great Love Poems. followed by a wonderful book signing by Allie, Damian and Helen!
And I am thinking there is a pretty good DIY Valentine’s Day project for you and your significant other hidden in there – keep reading!
The Love Book, a beautiful collection of love poems, is the brainchild of wonderful Allie Esiri, who explains why she did this project in the book’s foreword:
“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 in which she organized several poetry events, and one of the highlights was Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory reading a love story constructed through poems from the Love Book.
And, YES, it was SOLD OUT!
The reading occurred in Times Forum — a huge 1400-seater venue and I sat in the stalls section. You know stalls could go either way, they are not tiered, so your view is pretty much blocked if some tall guy sits in front of you, in particular if the performance is in a sitting format. They had a giant screen over the stage so that one could comfortably see the entire performance, however, I really didn’t want to see Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory on a screen, I have been there, I have done that 🙂 I wanted to see them on stage. Luckily, it turned out that the event was organized in a way so Lewis and McCrory would stand on opposite sides of the stage. Hurrah!
First, Allie Esiri came to the stage and introduced the couple. The crowd was psyched and in anticipation of a very original and fun poetry event because Lewis and McCrory would read great love poems giving us all different stages of a relationship. Love blossoming… emotionally and sexually… marriage… the secure feeling of being married… decline of a relationship… maybe things are not as good or spicy or sparkling as before… a break up… a death… memory of a love once lived but lost…
And Damian and Helen killed it on stage. They were in top form, being witty, being playful, doing accents, teasing each other a little and, at the end of the day, having fun with it.
One fun moment was when Helen read Tennessee Williams’ Life Story in a southern accent. Before reading the poem, she apologized to the audience in case there were people from the southern states in Times Forum. It’s funny that I actually live in a southern state, and Ms. McCrory, your southern accent is flawless. Bravo!
There was also some sweet teasing going on between the couple after Helen received a huge, enthusiastic applause upon reading the poem.
Damian jokingly told the audience that it would be better if they did not clap after every reading which would create competition between the two of them.
Helen: “Yes, otherwise, there’ll be arguments in the car driving back to London.”
Damian: “One spontaneous eruption of applause to you, God I hate the M4.” (turns out it’s the road they take to drive back to London.)
Helen: “I can sleep while he is driving.”
Gotta LOVE her!
And when Helen read Carol Ann Duffy’s Mrs Icarus:
“I’m not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he’s a total, utter, absolute Grade A pillock.”
Damian said : “At least she resisted from saying the poem directly at me.”
Gotta LOVE him!
So… Here is my idea of DIY project for you and your significant other! You can get a copy of the Love Book and read the poems in the particular order as below and live or re-live (if you were in Times Forum with us that afternoon) that beautiful love story… Or you can download the Love Book App on iTunes and listen to some of the poems from the event and many more from different actors and actresses, including Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory, but also Gina Bellman, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hiddleston, and Emma Watson… and you may discover some new poetry on the way… Or… you can make an event out of this, you can do your own reading with your better half, with your friends, using the Damian & Helen list, or making your own selections!
Wouldn’t it be so much FUN?
Now it’s time for me to shut up and give you the beautiful world of poetry with Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory.
Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory
Great Love Poems from the Love Book
HM: Extract Act 3 Scene 2 from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
DL: Love’s Philosophy by Percy Bysshe Shelley
HM: Mother, I cannot mind my Wheel by Sappho
DL: To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell – Hey! We have a video of Damian reciting this poem from an entirely different BBC poetry project in 2011.
HM: Coupling by Fleur Adcock
DL: may I feel said he by E. E. Cummings
HM: Now sleeps the crimson petal by Lord Tennyson
DL: Good God What a Night That Was by Petronius
HM: Life Story by Tennessee Williams
DL: Celia by Adrian Mitchell
HM: Conviction (iv) by Stevie Smith
DL: A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns
HM: One Perfect Rose by Dorothy Parker
DL: He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by W.B Yeats
HM: It is here by Harold Pinter
DL: Valentine by John Fuller
HM: Come. And Be My Baby by Maya Angelou
DL: Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney
HM: Words, Wide Night by Carol Ann Duffy
DL: i carry your heart with me (i carry it in by E.E. Cummings
HM: Sonnet 43 (How do I love thee?) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
DL: Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare
HM: Let me put it this way by Simon Armitage
DL: Bright Star by John Keats
HM: Close close by Elizabeth Bishop
DL: Talking in Bed by Philip Larkin
HM: Mrs Icarus by Carol Ann Duffy
DL: Animals by Frank O’Hara
HM: In the Night by Stevie Smith
DL: One Cigarette by Edwin Morgan
HM: Ebb by Edna St Vincent Millay
DL: We’ll go no more a roving by Lord Byron
HM: When You Are Old by W.B. Yeats
DL: Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin
HM: Sonnet 55 by William Shakespeare
When she finished reading Sonnet 55, there were tears in McCrory’s eyes. And, I know she was not the only one in the room.
And, these flowers were so well deserved! In Allie Esiri’s words, Lewis and McCrory “stormed” the festival. It turns out they sold more tickets than Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie combined. Hats off!
Note 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. And, they are reading a jamboree of love poetry here… enjoy!
After all… all we need is LOVE, isn’t it? Happy Valentine’s Day!