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When our editor, Calista Brill, came into the office fired up about ‘trench poetry,’ I had no idea what she was talking about.
Two and a half years later, I’m so glad that I’ve gotten the chance to learn more about this really fascinating category of writing — poetry written from the trenches of World War I.
And I’m glad that with ABOVE THE DREAMLESS DEAD, we’re able to share these fascinating, thoughtful, viscerally written poems with a new generation of readers, with an all-new comics interpr
This year is the 100th anniversary of the Great War, the “war to end all wars,” ha. And who of us knows much about it? Jane Addams, once the most famous woman in America, was vilified for taking a position that the war could have been avoided, of course she was right, and she was later hollowly vindicated, in a way, by being award the Nobel Peace Prize. If you are a student of literature, maybe especially British literature, you are aware of the trench poets of that war, those who wrote poems li
But it was the art that time and again won me over, wedded thoughtfully and creatively with the words and horror. Some of my favorite artists shape this, editor Chris Duffy’s, collection: Luke Pearson, Kevin Huizenga, Eddie Campbell, Peter Kuper, Isabel Greenberg, George Pratt, Lilli Carre, Danica Novgorodoff, Anders Nilsen. And the artists, finally, do not disappoint. In case you doubt this, based on the evidence of the art/poem collaborations themselves, look to the notes where the artists briefly discuss the process they went through with their work, all of them reading and re-reading the poems, doing research on the poets and the war and the poems. I hesitate to mention my faves, because as the momentum of the book gained steam for me, I had a long list including but not limited to Campbell’s adaptation of excerpts from The Great Push (not a poem!) but Patrick MacGill, Nilsen’s rendering of Hardy’s “In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations'”, Lloyd’s tribute to Sassoon’s “Repression of War Experience (which seems also a tribute to Will Eisner’s artistic vision), The End by Owen and Novgodoroff, Greenberg’s adaptation of Sassoon’s lovely “Everyone Sang” and Carre’s equally heartbreaking “The Dancers” which includes the line that titles the collection
And some of this art work is an homage to the time, capturing what might have been comics styles of the time, and some helps us bridge the gap to wars of today, and wars almost inevitably to come. I went from an unfair “meh” to “moving,” at last, profoundly touched and saddened by these visceral accounts in poetry and art. And fell in love with some of my have WWI poets again, and found some new ones I appreciated.
Eddie Campbell says, self-deprecatingly: “”it’s a bit preposterous us thinking we can illustrate the stuff that we know nothing of–sitting here in our air-conditioned rooms trying to imagine the horror of being knee deep in mud with your feet rotting off,” and I wasn’t there either, nor ever served in the military, but it’s important for them and for all of us to imagine the horrors of war before we so easily commit to yet another and another again and again. That’s the value of art, and imagination, and being human. I think they pull it off beautifully so we can use this in our own necessary anti-war efforts.
it was amazing
High school teachers, use this book! I would have loved to use this when I taught history and English. I went through a stage in my 20s when I read a lot of the World War I poets–Sassoon and Brooke mostly. But, whoa, this version rocks. So easy to incorporate into the classroom.
In the introduction, Duffy notes that many Americans don’t know much about World War I, and I agree. Trench warfare was horrible and deadly–shell shock was common, and soldiers thought their commanders were idiots for