I’ve seen Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman twice now, and the movie’s take on World War I is so moving that I started thinking about how everyday women dealt with the effects of war. The stress of having to take up the jobs the men left behind, for less money and even less respect. Then I dived into collections of poetry written by women in the twentieth century– some of the authors quite the Wonder Women themselves; stationed as nurses during the war or even fought in the streets against the German invasions. Both World Wars had a massive impact on literature, but this post is not about Hemingway, Tolkien, nor Yeats. Below is a list of ten poems written by female authors whose subject matter aligned with the themes displayed in Wonder Woman: love, honor, and death.
1. “War Girls” by Jessie Pope
Jessie Pope (1868-1941): English poet known for her wit and the hundreds of articles, poems, and short stories published in the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Evening Standard, The Queen, and the Westminster Gazette. Her poetry about World War I caused quite a stir in England, and by some was claimed to be “pro war propaganda,” but Pope’s poetry about World War I showcased a different side of history that the male poets veered away from: the female role in war.
2. “A Lament” by Katharine Tynan
Katharine Tynan (1859-1931): Irish-born writer who ran in the Irish literary circles of Dublin until she married and moved to England. Tynan wrote both novels and poetry. Her work focused on the feminist issues of the day, the effects of World War I, and religion. She is reported to have written over 100 novels, and five autobiographical volumes.
3. “The Falling Leaves” by Margaret Postgate Cole
Margaret Postgate Cole(1893-1980): English writer who published one of the first female anti-war poems: “The Falling Leaves”. Cole and her husband were one of the most powerful leftist couples in Britain. Her main focus in her writings was politics (socialism/feminism/war). She was awarded the OBE in 1965 and a DBE in 1970 and was appointed an honorary fellow at the London School of Economics in 1977.
4. “At the Movies” by Florence Ripley Mastin
Florence Ripley Martin(1886-1968): American writer, and English teacher at Erasmus Hall High School. She published her first poem at 14, and over the course of her life published hundreds more, 90 in the New York Times. The topic of poems ranging from Mastin’s everyday life, to the suffrage movement, and both world wars. She lived on her family farm over the Hudson with her partner Grace MacColl. Ripley was known for her highbrow, and sometimes crude humor.
5. “From the Somme: The Song of the Mud” by Mary Borden
Mary Borden(1886-1968): American writer who both funded and worked in a French field hospital during World War I. Her experience in the war, and her affair with Brigadier General Edward Louis Spears, whom she later married, influenced much of her work (both literature and art work). In 1913, Borden joined the Suffragette movement in London and was arrested after throwing a brick through a bank window. During World War II she set up the Hadfield-Spears Ambulance Unit in France until the German bombardment forced them to evacuate
6. “After the War” by May Wedderburn Cannan
May Wedderburn Cannan(1893–1973): English poet who wrote both poetry and novels. During World War I she worked at the Voluntary Aid Detachment writing War Propaganda, volunteered at at a railway canteen in Rouen, France, and worked for MI5 in Paris. Her great-niece, Charlotte Fyfe, collated and published Cannan’s correspondence poetry with Quiller-Couch as The Tears of War: the Love Story of a Young Poet and a War Hero (2000).
7. “Involuntary Spies” by Marion Strobel
Marion Strobel (1895-1967): American writer, critic, and editor. She authored two poetry collections, and had poems in a few others. During World War II she wrote numerous poems about her feelings on the war. Her daughter was the abstract expressionist painter Joan Mitchell.
8. “In the Shadow of Great Times” by Helen Goldbaum
(I was unable to find anything about Helen Goldbaum on the internet. But, I liked this poem so much and I couldn’t find another to replace it so I figured I’d post it anyway. If anyone has information on this poet, please let me know!)
9. “Spring in War-Time” by Sara Teasdale
Sara Teasdale (1884-1933): American poet known for her love poetry and lyrical mastery. She published three poetry collections and received the Pulitzer Prize for her third collection Love Songs in 1918. Teasdale’s poetry focused on growing up as a sheltered girl in St.Louis, an evolving young writer in a world at war, and then later depression and death.
10. “Building the Barricade” by Anna Świrszczyńska
Anna Swir (1909-1984): Polish Poet known for both her poetry about World War II, and the empowerment of the female body. During World War II she fought against the Nazi regime, worked as nurse for the Warsaw Uprising, and once waited 60 minutes to be executed–but survived. Her most famous piece of work is the collection entitled: Building the Barricade.
Which of these poems did you like best? Have a favorite female poet? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, and want to see more, make sure to subscribe (there’s a link at the bottom of every page :)).
Thanks for reading!