Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics

Overview

As the Great War dragged on and its catastrophic death toll mounted, a new artistic movement found its feet in the United Kingdom. The Trench Poets, as they came to be called, were soldier-poets dispatching their verse from the front lines. Known for its rejection of war as a romantic or noble enterprise, and its plainspoken condemnation of the senseless bloodshed of war, Trench Poetry soon became one of the most significant literary moments of its decade. 

The marriage of ...

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Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics

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Overview

As the Great War dragged on and its catastrophic death toll mounted, a new artistic movement found its feet in the United Kingdom. The Trench Poets, as they came to be called, were soldier-poets dispatching their verse from the front lines. Known for its rejection of war as a romantic or noble enterprise, and its plainspoken condemnation of the senseless bloodshed of war, Trench Poetry soon became one of the most significant literary moments of its decade. 

The marriage of poetry and comics is a deeply fruitful combination, as evidenced by this collection. In stark black and white, the words of the Trench Poets find dramatic expression and reinterpretation through the minds and pens of some of the greatest cartoonists working today.

With New York Times bestselling editor Chris Duffy (Nursery Rhyme Comics, Fairy Tale Comics) at the helm, Above the Dreamless Dead is a moving and illuminating tribute to those who fought and died in World War I. Twenty poems are interpreted in comics form by twenty of today's leading cartoonists, including Eddie Campbell, Kevin Huizenga, George Pratt, and many others. 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 07/21/2014
If any poetry cries out for adaptation as sequential art, it is that of the Great War, and this anthology is an exemplary testament to this. Various artists adapt the works of some of the most famous WWI poets, including Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Isaac Rosenberg. The talented cartoonists, including Hunt Emerson, Sarah Glidden, and Stuart Immomen, use different approaches to illuminate poems known for its bitter irony and brutal honesty. The collection is divided into three sections—“A Call To War,” “In the Trenches,” and “Aftermath”—and the adapted poems capture the horror of the Western front. For example, Kevin Huizenga’s adaptation of the Charles Sorley poem, “All the Hills and Vales Along” does an excellent job of incorporating Sorley’s sardonic take on the themes of duty and the glory of war, which characterized much pre-war poetry. Stephen R. Bissette’s adaptation of Kipling’s “The Coward” uses a unique textual arrangement to magnify the brutally laconic epitaph. The real strength of the anthology comes both from the poems selected for it and the variety of visual approaches—ranging from the cartoonish to the phantasmagoric— that prevents it from relying simply on the visual carnage of the “war to end all wars.” (July)
From the Publisher
*"This should encourage high school English and history teachers to supplement or even toss the textbook guide and, more importantly, impel young adults to reflect on war with poetry in one hand and a newspaper in the other." - BCCB, STARRED REVIEW

"This wonderful book - beautiful, tragic, funny, and heartbreaking - is perfect to introduce the Trench Poets to high school students." - VOYA

*"Original and evocative . . . This isn't the first and won't be the last WWI poetry anthology issued during the war's centennial, but it may prove to be the most accessible and striking." - Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

*"The real strength of the anthology comes both from the poems selected for it and the variety of visual approaches—ranging from the cartoonish to the phantasmagoric— that prevents it from relying simply on the visual carnage of the “war to end all wars.” - Publisher's Weekly STARRED REVIEW

 

VOYA, October 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 4) - Sarah Flowers
August marked the centennial of the beginning of World War I, and this is an outstanding contribution to the literature of that horrible and catastrophic conflict. Editor Duffy asked comics artists to illustrate the work of the Trench Poets—the British soldier-poets of World War I’s Western Front. The poems and black-and-white illustrations combine to create a powerful indictment of war in general and this war in particular. The art varies from panel-by-panel illustrations of poems to more impressionistic background pictures. The poems include the famous, such as Wilfrid Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” (illustrated by George Pratt), and the not-so-famous, such as several “soldier’s songs”— raucous and often bawdy doggerel—illustrated by Hunt Emerson. Other poets include Siegfried Sassoon, Isaac Rosenberg, and Rupert Brooke, and even some non-soldiers like Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling. Other artists include Hannah Berry, Lilli Carre, Sarah Glidden, and Eddie Campbell. This wonderful book—beautiful, tragic, funny, and heartbreaking—is perfect to introduce the Trench Poets to high school students. Just as one example, Charles Sorley’s poem “All the Hills and Vales Along” is illustrated by Kevin Huizenga in straightforward comics style, with six panels to a page. The first panels show an idyllic countryside setting under the words of the poem, which begins, “All the hills and vales along/Earth is bursting into song/And the singers are the chaps/Who are going to die perhaps.” This titles is a must-buy for high school and public libraries. Reviewer: Sarah Flowers; Ages 15 to 18.
Library Journal
08/01/2014
Veterans of mud, blood, and ink, the British soldier Trench Poets filed dispatches from the front that rejected any romantic nobility in war and cried out against the senseless murder of millions. This collection adapts 28 poems via the black-and-white artwork of Eddie Campbell (From Hell), Carol Tyler (You'll Never Know), George Pratt (Paroles de Poilus), Peter Kuper (World War 3 Illustrated), Pat Mills (Charley's War), and other contemporary comics creators. Often, the art adds subplots or rich details. For example, a Christlike image transforms into an angel of death in "Soldiers Dream." In "Break of Dawn in the Trenches," a rat escapes the battlefield to feed her offspring underground: life goes on. Some wrenching selections become oddly beautiful through the drawings, as when glittering dew renders magical a lifeless soldier impaled on barbed wire. VERDICT This visceral and haunting compilation will help concerned readers understand the costs of war, particularly World War I, our planet's first industrialized war. A solid choice for classrooms, too, high school and up.—M.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781626720657
  • Publisher: First Second
  • Publication date: 9/23/2014
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 211,753
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Contributors to Above the Dreamless Dead include: Hannah Berry, Stephen R. Bissette, Eddie Campbell, Lilli Carré, Liesbeth De Stercke, Hunt Emerson, Garth Ennis, Simon Gane, Sarah Glidden, Isabel Greenberg, Sammy Harkham, David Hitchcock, Kevin Huizenga, Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, Peter Kuper, James Lloyd, Pat Mills, Anders Nilsen, Danica Novgorodoff, Luke Pearson, George Pratt, Carol Tyler, and Phil Winslade. Edited by Chris Duffy.

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