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The poetry that moves men to tears

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A new anthology celebrates the poems that really move men with revealing contributions from the likes of Ian McEwan, Jonathan Franzen and Salman Rushdie

Late one afternoon some 20 years ago, a close family friend called to tell me of a sudden domestic crisis. My wife and I went straight round to take him out to dinner, during which he began to quote a Thomas Hardy poem, The Darkling Thrush. Upon reaching what might be called the punchline "Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew / And I was unaware" our friend choked up, unable to get the words out. This was understandable; he was still upset by the day's events. We ourselves were much moved.

That weekend, we happened to be visiting another close friend, the scholar and critic Frank Kermode, at his home in Cambridge. Frank knew the man involved and was also touched by his Hardy moment. "Is there any poem you can't recite without choking up?" I asked him. Rarely an emotionally demonstrative man, Frank said: "Go and get the Larkin."

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