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.
So it’s 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.
First the Love Book… This beautiful collection 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 telling 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 just killed it! They were in their 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!
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. Hats off!
You can find the list of poems the couple read in the order that they read them right here.
Please take some time to check the Love Book Facebook page here and follow Allie Esiri @AllieEsiri on Twitter.
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?