This website blossomed from the research I undertook as a Q ANZAC 100 Fellow at the State Library of Queensland. Trawling through the John Oxley Library's collection of material related to women and war, I found myself drawn to the writing of women poets. The full spectrum of war-time emotions, motivations, grievances and sorrows were laid out in their words. As an historian I am trained to use primary sources, documents written at the time of an event, by a person involved, as evidence to mount an historical argument. But I also trained in literary criticism, and I recognised that this poetry distilled what I really wanted to know about women and war. It told me how these women responded to the unique experience of wartime. It told me how they responded emotionally, what they felt in the souls, not their minds.
Because every word and phrase in a poem is carefully chosen, poetry distils the essence of its subject. The oft quoted William Wordsworth idea that ‘poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’ tells us that poems offer valuable and unique glimpses into individual feelings and experiences. At the John Oxley Library, I found a trove of poems by women that did just that. There isn’t much more that a historian could ask for.
Ink Outlasts is a place to discover poetry written by women in Queensland during and about the First World War. It is a digital anthology of poems uncovered in newspaper clippings, scrap books and out-of-print collections. These re-discovered words and voices illuminate rich and diverse responses to conflict, from nationalist, maternal jingoism to embittered disillusionment. Whether they wrote in traditional, rhyming verse or undertook modernist experimentation, what unites these writers is they way they actively engaged with how the war was making them feel.
You can learn more about my research at the John Oxley Library by watching the short film below.