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Categories: 21st Century, American, First Collections, Jewish
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (96 pages)
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Nineveh takes its modernist bearings from Edmond Jabès, Paul Celan and Yehudah Amichai; but also, merrily, from John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara. Zohar Atkins’s poems offer humour and hospitality alongside deep learning and enigmatic, mystical theophany. The division between secular and religious is blurred, the two coexist in a generous exchange. The Bible is near at hand but rendered unfamiliar in the combination of anachronism with classical allusion. The poems produce jarring, contemporary Midrashim – interpretative retellings of canonical tales. Cain and Abel appear as business executives, Ishmael is a Palestinian dying in an Israeli hospital, Rachel and Leah are the projected identities of a demented Jacob, and God is a perfectionist who procrastinates by binge-watching TV. These poems are for intellectuals disenchanted with intellectualism and for seekers and sensualists in search of a renewing approach to language. Scholar and rabbi, Atkins has learned that poetry and not erudition offers a securer saving power.
Awards won by Zohar Atkins Winner, 2012 Oxonian Review Poetry Prize
'Nineveh is an astounding debut collection full of originality and adding to the vast and rich culture of Jewish poetry [...] the collection is imaginative, full of ancient wisdoms and modern truths sometimes rendered in witty and profound revelations. Atkins' name will surely echo among poetry lovers for a long time to come; Nineveh is a book to own.'
DURA Dundee Review
'One of the freshest debuts in recent years, with a clear sense of mission that ranges widely across secular and religious culture...the typical speaker in a Zohar Atkins poem, if not straight out of the bible, is a figure adrift in late capitalism, seeking to negotiate our globalised cloud-based moment in history.'
Andrew Neilson, Magma
'Nineveh takes delight in bringing disciplines and dictions together to interrogate history and each other. Incantation and instruction, meditation techniques and social media... Atkins is alive to the sheer j-oy of his art, including its significance for meditation. There's an underlying awareness of what poetry can achieve through its own self-examination, and a potential for ecstasy as well as crisis in many of his poems'
The Guardian,'The Oy of the Poyem: 28 Exercises in non-Mastery' is Poem of the Week, June 24th 2019
'The poems in Nineveh take ancient clay and sculpt vigorously innovative shapes: how very refreshing to plunge into a collection which re-thinks historical Jewish religion and culture with such subversive, witty originality. 'Revelatory' is not too strong a word.'
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