Her reputation extended to New Zealand. After her first New Zealandmention in the Colonist, 23 September 1903, she received mentions regularly in New Zealand newspaper reviews and advertisements of overseas publications for more than a decade. Along with her mentions in the Colonist, prominent Wellington writer/journalist A F T Chorlton’s Bookman column in The Evening Post noted her work.
During these years (1903-23), she was a very popular Edwardian and Georgian comic writer with New Zealanders (notably read by The Spike group of writers at Victoria College) and her verse and stories were widely published in New Zealand newspapers, including The Evening Post, The New Zealand Free Lance, the Feilding Star and Poverty Bay Herald. Our Edwardian Suffragettes and Georgian women writers would’ve read her, from Jessie Mackay to Robin Hyde.
During World War I, Pope became the ‘war girl’ in verse and used for recruitment purposes. However, she is one of the few English war poets to recognise ANZAC feats of bravery and their ‘imperishable renown’ in poems such as ‘An Anzac Poem’, ‘Anzac’, and ‘Cobbers’. Kiwi soldiers enclosed some of her poems in letters sent home in New Zealandsoldiers’ parcels. Family members then sent the poems in to local newspapers that republished them. She achieved a reputation with her war verse comparable to Tennyson’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ in some parts of New Zealand.
Left - Jessie Pope’s War Poems (London: Grant Richards Ltd, 1915)
Pope’s ‘An Anzac Poem’ was recited by Shayle Gardiner, Director of Entertainments for NZEF, at the Albert Hall ANZAC Concert,London,6 May 1920.
Jessie Pope’s war poetry and reputation fell into obscurity after World War One when she became despised by returning English soldiers and condemned for her pro-war verses considered to be propaganda; however, her poetry and role as a woman writer during the time of the Suffragettes is currently undergoing reappraisal. There is also reappraisal of her war reputation in comparison with the First World War male poets.
Wilfred Owen ironically directed his early draft of the poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ at Pope, then removed her name, addressed it ‘To a Certain Poetess’ and finally referenced her in the poem as a ‘friend’. In relation to Owen’s poem, New Zealand poet, academic and biographer Harry Ricketts mentions her in Strange Meetings: The Poets of the Great War (2010): ‘“Dulce et Decorum Est” was originally dedicated to the popular children’s writer and author of patriotic verses, Jessie Pope’. Ricketts then notes the intended irony in the dedication. A good article covering Pope and Owen’s ‘friendship’ and Owen’s drafts of ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is by W G Bebbington in Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, 3/4 (1972), 82–93.
I have not found further mentions of Pope in either the Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (2nd ed. 1998) or the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature (1998). There may be references to her in New Zealand soldiers’ accounts and publications of the First World War that I have not looked into in detail. The Hocken Library in Dunedin has a number of these war and soldier publications and archival papers. I suspect New Zealanders’ views (and the soldiers’ views) of Pope would’ve changed over the years particularly in light of the events at Gallipoli, although she does retain a certain social significance to New Zealand and Australia for her ANZAC poems.
Full story and poems at The Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotrearoa