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Two Poetry Books

Chaos of the Night: Women’s Poetry and Verse of the Second World War, edited by Catherine Reilly ****
Chaos of the Night follows on from the wonderful Scars Upon My Heart, but deals instead this time with women’s poetry from the Second World War.  Being the history nerd that I am, I was so excited to become acquainted with more war poetry written by women.  87 poets are collected here in all, recording ‘the devastating upheavals’ which the Second World War caused ‘with its attendant partings, separations, [and] bereavements…  they [the collected poets] write of the fear of air attacks, of children’s responses to evacuation, of their horror of Nazi persecution.  But they convey too the sweet expectation of peace, of reunion and rebirth…  [The book is] a moving testament to women’s search for a better future’.  As in Scars Upon My Heart, each poet in the collection is arranged by their surname.

I love the format of this book, particularly with regard to the use of different nationalities and the many perspectives which can be found within its pages.  Like Scars Upon My Heart, Chaos of the Night is an incredibly important collection of a largely overlooked portion of war poetry, and it is a book of real value, particularly from the standpoint of women’s experiences in history.  There are many poets within its pages whom I want to read more work by, and I was surprised as to how modern some of the prose was.  I would recommend this to anyone who has any interest whatsoever in wartime history, or in the writing of women.

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Cottage Poems
by Patrick Bronte
I purchased a marvellous collection of the complete works of the Bronte sisters some time ago, and twelve of their father Patrick’s poems were included within it under this title.  I was so intrigued to see how his work would compare to that of his daughters.  Most of the rhymes within Cottage Poems were lovely, and a lot of thought has clearly been put into them.  His verses too are rather nice:

“To all my heart is vivid and true,
But glowa with ardent love for you;
Though absent, still you rise in view,
And talk and smile
Whilst heavenly themes, for ever new,
Our cares beguile.”

Stories are woven throughout each poem, all of them quiet but each of them seamless in their progression.  Whilst none of Patrick Bronte’s poems are sadly overly memorable, this is a sweet little collection which encompasses many themes, and which is sure to appeal to those who love the work of his three daughters.

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Two Poetry Books

In February, I borrowed two very enjoyable poetry books from the library, and thought that a joint post would work quite well, despite the fact the books in question are so different.  One is quite a fun and imaginative work by Ted Hughes, and the other is a compilation of First World War poetry by women.

‘Meet my Folks!’ by Ted Hughes

Meet My Folks! by Ted Hughes ****
I spotted this whilst searching for The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and it looked too adorable to pass up.  Meet My Folks! was Ted Hughes’ first work for children, and it is the first of his young poetry collections which I have read.  It originally contained eight poems, and more have been added over various reprintings, to make thirteen in total.  It is consequently quite a slim volume, and is only just over sixty pages long.  In the poems, Hughes has written about rather an unusual family and certainly creates an interesting mixture of characters, from his sister Jane, who is really a crow, to his grandfather, who collects live owls.  The rhyme scheme which Hughes has used works well, and the accompanying illustrations are charming.  Meet My Folks! is sweet, silly, enjoyable and is certain to charm both children and those who are refusing to grow up.

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‘Scars Upon my Heart’ by Catherine Reilly

Scars Upon My Heart: Women’s Poetry and Verse of the First World War, edited by Catherine Reilly ****
I was so impressed to find this lovely Virago, which looked like it had never been read before, upon the non-fiction shelves.  I adore First World War poetry, but have read barely any poems by women written about the conflict.  Indeed, there are many poets within this collection whom I had never heard of before I started to read.

Reilly has included the work of seventy nine female poets in total, and the scope of the book is absolutely marvellous in consequence.  The preface, written by Judith Kazantzis, is measured and intelligent, and well describes the overbearing and stifling enormity of war.  She writes that the anthology ‘fills a poignant gap’, and that ‘these women poets speak for the women whose own lives were often blighted by that miserable loss’ of their generation.  Reilly’s introduction too is wonderfully informative.

Scars Upon My Heart is such a lovely volume, filled with beautiful and startling verse, and I love the fact that there is a companion volume about Second World War poetry written by women.  It is fascinating to be able to see such a conflict from the female perspective – particularly apt in its centenary year – and to see how wartime attitudes differed.  I would heartily recommend Scars Upon My Heart to anyone with any hint of interest in the First World War.

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