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Tumult & Tears (Paperback)

The Story of the Great War Through the Eyes and Lives of its Women Poets

P&S History > By Century > 20th Century WWI > By Year > 1914 WWI > By Year > 1915 WWI > By Year > 1916 WWI > By Year > 1917 WWI > By Year > 1918 Women of History

By Dr Vivien Newman
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9781783831470
Published: 8th June 2016



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During the First World War and its immediate aftermath, hundreds of women wrote thousands of poems on multiple themes and for many different purposes. Women’s poetry was published, sold (sometimes to raise funds for charities as diverse as ‘Beef Tea for Troops’ or ‘The Blue Cross Fund for Warhorses’), read, preserved, awarded prizes and often critically acclaimed. Tumult and Tears will demonstrate how women’s war poetry, like that of their male counterparts, was largely based upon their day-to-day lives and contemporary beliefs. Poems are placed within their wartime context. From war worker to parent; from serving daughter to grieving mother, sweetheart, wife; from writing whilst within earshot of the guns, whilst making the munitions of war, or whilst sitting in relative safety at home, these predominantly amateur, middle-class poets explore, with a few tantalising gaps, nearly every aspect of women’s wartime lives, from their newly public often uniformed roles to their sexuality.

In "Tumult & Tears," social historian Vivien Newman estimates that, out of 2,000 British war poets whose work was published during World War I, nearly a quarter were women. She expands and enriches our understanding of that war, and its resulting poetic tradition, by surveying the words and experiences of those ignored by the usual canonical field pieces.

The 224-page trade paperback presents a far-flung and accessible selection of poetry, organized by themes of women's changing roles in war, religion, uniformed service, nature, and grief. Where possible, Newman includes biographical sketches of each poet cited, providing personal context in addition to the social and political.

Newman's scholarship often delivers cascades of insight and epiphany. Take, for example, the concept of woman as mourner: That wives, girlfriends, and mothers might grieve for lost soldiers is no surprise. Newman introduces examples of others, however, just as valid in their experiences of grief. Consider the unrequited lover, the mistress, the nurse, the nanny. These are complicated, complicating voices. Not all are polished, but each is worthy of note. Each is a potential revelation to readers.

Red Bull Rising blog

This book provides fascinating reading and an alternative view of women's wartime lives, including personal intimate details, whether they were civilians or serving in uniform.

Essex Family Historian No.161

This collection is a further step on the way to fully acknowledging the full extent of women's involvement during the conflict and after.

The Cannon's Mouth

Tumult & Tears demonstrates that female poets drew their subjects from their day to day experiences and beliefs – just as their male counterparts did. The poems exhibit the roles which women adopted: mother, daughter, wife, sweetheart; nurse, volunteer, war worker. And the influences which bore upon them: labour, grief, love, fear, faith, community.

Read the full review here.

The Western Front Association, Dennis Williams

As an introductory resource, this book is a success.

The Journal of Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry

During the war hundreds of women wrote thousands of poems on a variety of themes. Some of it was sold to raise funds for troops' charities; much of it was often critically acclaimed. Most of it is now largely forgotten or very rarely read, so this book, gathering together some of the best, is very welcome during the 100th anniversary period. The author has placed the poems chosen in their wartime context, from war worker to parent, grieving mother, sweetheart and wife. Some of the poems were written within sound of the gunfire at the front, while others were penned safely at home. It makes for a fascinating read and a collection well worth a look, removed as it is from the usual diet of male war poets. Taken in the round it is an excellent and thought provoking collection.

Highly recommended 10/10

The Great War Magazine, September 2016

'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.'

Read the full Article here!

Warfare Magazine

As featured on GoodReads!

Goodreads reviewer

'A most enjoyable read and one I would strongly recommend to anyone who likes poetry.'

Click here to read the full review!

Female Poets of the First World War - Viv

'Dr Vivien Newman’s Tumult & Tears is the latest anthology to be released by Pen & Sword Books and, in a centennial age of facts and figures, it’s refreshingly clear and concise.'

Read the full review here!

Dear Grace - A Literary Blog - Grace Freeman

From the dedication, abbreviations contained in the book and introduction about women’s war poetry, right through to the comprehensive index at the back, this book is a treasure trove of information both relating to the poems included and the background history of the conflict.

A most enjoyable read and one I would strongly recommend to anyone who likes poetry.

Read the full review here.

Female War Poets, Lucy London
Dr Vivien Newman

About Dr Vivien Newman

 Dr Vivien Newman is the author of We Also Served: The Forgotten Women of the First World War. An expert on women's experiences during the First World War, she is based at the University of Essex. Dr Newman is also working on a collection of women's First World War poetry and a book on children's experiences during the conflict, both due to be published by Pen and Sword. She is a regular speaker at national conferences and for groups including the Women's Institute and the Western Front Association.

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