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Isobel Williams

  • About
  • Reviews
  • Isobel Williams was educated at Woking Girls' Grammar School and Somerville College, Oxford. She blogs about live-drawing, has held solo exhibitions in London and Oslo, and has written for publications ranging from The Amorist to International Journal for the Semiotics of Law. She wrote and illustrated The Supreme Court: a Guide for Bears (2017), Catullus: Shibari Carmina (Carcanet, 2021), and a chapter in Design in Legal Education (Routledge, 2022). She is contributing to Contemporary Women's Voices and the Classical Past (Bloomsbury).
    Praise for Isobel Williams 'This new version of Catullus certainly contains more than its fair share of lively wit and astonishing originality, but Williams goes much further than others have done in making this very much her own work rather than simply a clever translation of the text. ... This book is extraordinary in every way. It takes poems which we have read many times and makes us see them with fresh eyes. The theme of Shibari is both a unifying feature and also a distancing technique, adding a flavour of the exotic and the bizarre which lurks beneath the all-too familiar surface of this poetry. Switch fizzes with new ideas and forces us to re-read and re-evaluate this most quixotic of poets afresh.'

    John Godwin, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    'Explosive and impactful... a compelling and impressive project which translates for us not only the words of these ancient texts, but recontextualises them on the page, drawing out new layers of meaning and allowing us to experience them in new and novel ways.'

    Chrissy Williams, The Poetry Review

    'Williams has served up what is possibly one of the most exciting translation volumes of recent years....The book is alive and breathing.'

    Jemma L King, New Welsh Review 

     'Williams has a terrific ear, both for poetic rhythm and for speech pattterns, and her formal decisions are well-suited to Catullus' manner... Williams is lyrical, funny, engaging, and insightful, and I recommend this book to anyone interested in poetry and in Catullus.'

    Diane Arnson Svarlien, The Classical Outlook

    'Williams has created a bracingly foul, but also a shrewd and funny Catullus'

    Colin Burrow, London Review of Books 

     'Catullus is in the basement, but he's a bit tied up, literally - Isobel Williams' naughty translation puts the Roman poet in a bondage dungeon.'

    Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph Best New Poetry Books 2021

    'Collage and college in one slim course, her little book teaches and teases... Her treatment of selected poems is literary charcuterie as neat as it is naughty. Criticism ceases to be inky assessment and becomes a rally, tease and treat... Shibari Carmina embellishes the literature by looping the poet in a crib spun from and around his own confections. If you fail to enjoy this sado-masochistic gem as much as I have, you can always flog it...'

    Frederic Raphael, The Critic

     'Vibrant new translation... Her art is simple, bold and evocative, and serves to draw out the frank sexuality of many of Catullus' poems.'

    Grace Bartlett, Cherwell

    'Williams's translation covers such a breadth of emotion, including the conflicting and binding pain of love- pathos that can elicit tears and hilarity blended with jarringly puerile vitriol. These emotions are shrouded in words that seem almost like momentarily written notes, and so belie Williams's skill. Each word is perfectly placed and the poems are polished till their burnished edges have lost every hint of their maker's tools.'

    Ed Bedford, The Indiependent

      'It sheds new light on Catullus's struggles as he saw them. It is a striking attempt to present his poems in the moment and is enhanced by the innovative illustrations.'

    Stuart Lyons, Classics For All
     'Williams' translation is the best I've seen by a mile.'

    John Clegg

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