All We Need is… The Love Book with Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory!


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 Poemsfollowed 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:

source: The Love Book FB page
source: The Love Book FB page

“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.

source: Cheltenham Literature Festival website
source: Cheltenham Literature Festival website

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!

source: Damianista
source: Damianista

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.

source: Damianista
source: Damianista

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

source: Allie Esiri twitter
source: Allie Esiri twitter

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

source: Damianista
source: Damianista

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.

source: Damianista
source: Damianista

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!

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

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