Tumult & Tears

Posted on Tuesday 14th June 2016


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Tumult and Tears is available now from Pen and Sword Books
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Vivien Newman
an anthology of women's first world war poetry
"This is the story of the Great War told through the eyes and lives of its Women Poets"
Between 1914 and 1917, 'over 7 cubic feet of poetry' was written - one critic even wondered if it were possible to be 'killed by reading poetry'. This is just one of the little known and intriguing facts that DR Vivien Newman, an acknowledge world expert in women's poetry of the Great War, reveals in Tumult and Tears.
Why poetry?

When posted away from home, today’s armed forces and loved ones communicate via social media. Facebook, Twitter, emails, FaceTime, WhatsApp, e-blueys, texts, even playlists, shrink the miles: hopes, fears, joys, love and grief travel across the airwaves. But the compelling need to keep in touch is not a 21st century phenomenon, every generation uses its own technology. A century ago, literacy was almost universal. Poetry had been taught and learned in the classroom. Hundreds of women found a poetic voice with which to reveal, examine, and share all aspects of their wartime lives.

Far from being just one more anthology of Great War poetry, Tumult and Tears is unique. By focusing on women wartime poets, it tells the story of the Great War through women’s own voices. Discovered in many hundreds of pages of collections, newspapers, scrapbooks and anthologies compiled during the war, and subsequently donated to archives, numerous poems from across the English-speaking world are re-published, many for the first time in a century.

Who are these women?

The (unjustly) mocked army of knitters whose handiwork saves fingers, toes, and even lives; the munitions workers who know that, like soldiers at the Front, they too are ‘cogs’ in the machinery of war; the nurses who question the morality of patching up men so that they can return to the Front to kill or be killed; the hospital workers who relish the excitement of serving in far-flung theatres, despite the dangers of ‘lurking submarines’ as they cross the ocean to reach their posts; the uniformed women who anticipate struggling to return to Civvy Street after the excitement of war service; the mothers who know that, had their own ‘precious dear’ been buried at home, their grief would have been less acute; the no-longer devout who reject the ‘oil of comfort’ that Christianity fails to provide; the young women who pray for one night of love to sustain them through the long chaste years ahead, all feature in Tumult and Tears.

As well as providing fascinating biographical information about many of the poets themselves, Tumult and Tears delves into the history of the production and publishing of women’s poetry, revealing surprising, forgotten facts - that poems were written to raise money for ‘our troops overseas’, for Belgian refugees, to provide beef tea and tobacco for soldiers, and also in the hopes of winning lucrative poetry prizes offered by newspapers and magazines.

Who would have guessed that Wilfred Owen would be pipped to the post by a woman for first prize for the ‘Best Poem by a poet On Active Service'?

Tumult and Tears is now available to buy from Pen and Sword Books. Click here for more information.

Of further interest...