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Gilgamesh Retold

Jenny Lewis

Cover of Gilgamesh Retold by Jenny Lewis
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Categories: 21st Century, Bestsellers, British, Medieval, Translation, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Classics
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Audiobook (MP3 format) 1 h 47 m
(Pub. Jun 2019)
9781784108779
£14.99 £13.49
Paperback (136 pages)
(Pub. Oct 2018)
9781784106140
£12.99 £11.69
eBook (EPUB) Needs ADE!
(Pub. Oct 2018)
9781784106157
£10.39 £9.35
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Reviews
  • Featured in the New Statesman Best Books of 2018

    Jenny Lewis relocates Gilgamesh to its earlier, oral roots in a Sumerian society where men and women were more equal, the reigning deity of Gilgamesh’s city, Uruk, was female (Inanna), only women were allowed to brew beer and keep taverns and women had their own language – emesal. With this shift of emphasis, Lewis captures the powerful allure of the world’s oldest poem and gives it a fresh dynamic while creating a fastpaced narrative for a new generation of readers.


    Jenny Lewis is a poet, playwright, translator and songwriter who teaches poetry at Oxford University. She was educated at the Royal Masonic School (Weybridge and Rickmansworth) and then at the Ruskin School of Art and, later, St Edmund Hall, Oxford. She gained an MPhil in Poetry from the University of South ... read more
    '...a rich tapestry of wonder and excitement...her description of the Sky Bull, for instance, which is sent by the goddess Inanna to destroy Gilgamesh for rejecting her advances is absolutely something to marvel at...exceptionally beautiful poetry [that] makes these ancient worlds a little more accessible for a modern reader.'
    Canonball Read Review No.35, July 2019
     'Through the innovations described above, Lewis seems to claim the epic for our shared cultural consciousness, locating it in a fresh imaginative space between what we know today as separate mythic traditions'
    Theophilus Kwek, The North
    'By any standard, Jenny Lewis's Gilgamesh Retold is essential reading, not only for her magisterial synthesis of ancient myth, but for her impressive variety of metrical forms which in itself mirrors the evolution of literary traditions from the Dark Ages to the post-modern.'
    David Cooke, London Grip
    A 'vivid, even cinematic translation... Lewis's approach to her translation - an intuitive interpretation - gives her license to make room for the feminine... Lewis recalls those matriarchal goddesses of early religions who are now so frequently forgotten - or redacted.'
    Hetta Howes, TLS
    'These innovative tales are full of cosmic creation, dramatic battles, gods and grief. Lewis' evocative and exhilarating poems bring Gilgamesh to life for a whole new generation, discovering the resonance of ancient Mesopotamian myths in recent Middle Eastern conflicts and its enduring relevance today.'
    Poetry Book Society Winter Bulletin, 2018
     'Gilgamesh Retold by Jenny Lewis (Carcanet Classics) reworks the ancient epic - it's innovative, graceful, erudite and utterly unputdownable.'
    Gavin Francis, New Statesman (The best books of 2018)
    'Gilgamesh Retold is terrific - and very beautiful. It is the fullest version I have ever read, and the richest. It has the immediacy of dream. I've never felt from other versions just how precious the life is which Gilgamesh longs to keep.'
    Alison Brackenbury
    'Jenny Lewis's Gilgamesh Retold is not simply a retelling of the ancient epic; it is the spirited 'response' of a contemporary poet to the original legend. Using a variety of lively metrical forms and expanding the material where appropriate - notably regarding the goddess Inanna - Gilgamesh Retold is a vivacious reanimation of a timeless narrative for today's readers.'
    Theodore Ziolkowski, author of Gilgamesh Among Us: Modern Encounters with the Ancient Epic
    'Gilgamesh Retold by Jenny Lewis rings with the strength of the original texts and sings with its own poetic originality.'
    Fran Hazelton, author of Stories from Ancient Iraq (2010) and Three Kings of Warka, Myths from Mesopotamia (2012)
    'While bringing back to life Gilgamesh and the immense cultural heritage of Mesopotamia-Iraq, Jenny Lewis also proves to us that poetry is, as it always has been, the best way to rekindle the past while capturing the essence of the times we live in.'
    Adnan al-Sayegh
    Praise for Jenny Lewis 'Blown away by Jenny Lewis's superb poems during the online launch of her new collection From Base Materials. The poem inspired by the Sarah Everard case is just one that I found utterly compelling and moving. Powerful, controlled, lyrical, profound, all of the poems she read during the launch.'
    Lorna Ferguson
    'Jenny Lewis's exhilarating new collection is both fiercely lyrical and bravely innovative. From the tenderness of her long poem 'Love in Old Age' to the creative concrete poetry of 'Wake!', a 're-imagining' of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, she explores the frontiers of form and sense. To this end, she includes both translated and co-authored pieces alongside her own poetry, offering dexterous versions of Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Old Irish and ancient Babylonian, either as standalone pieces or embedded in her own verse. Above all, the collection is veined with a poet's concern for words and their slippery meaning; their playfulness, their treachery - and their danger: 'We can only push our spirits/through and hope for the best', Lewis notes in 'Words Are Made of Iron'. From Base Materials more than fulfills this mission, delivering the best with originality and poise.'
    Josephine Balmer
    'Deeply informed by a wide range of reading, From Base Materials explores its themes with wit, style and a wisdom born of experience. An impressive collection from a poet working at the height of her powers.'
    Jem Poster
    'Poems of great candour and beauty that address injustice, reckoning, and transformation.'
    Maya C. Popa
    'Jenny Lewis brings the ancient past with her into her poetry, skilfully weaving together history with narration, philosophy with religion and prose with verse. Her similes are in a class of their own.'
    Salah Niazi
    'An intense and informed love of language.'
    Mimi Khalvati
    'Jenny Lewis is a lyricist for the end times. Technically flawless and blunt, this collection is a fine example of how poetry helps humanity cope.'
    Claire Crowther
    'Taking Mesopotamia is a truly memorable piece of work. Lewis is an acutely attentive observer, but this is more than a poetic documentary - it lives as much in the ear as in the imagination, so well acoustically arranged that we cannot forget any of the voices in it.'
    Jane Draycott
    'Taking Mesopotamia -- a brilliantly ironic title for our times -- controls its anger through an accomplished and flexible technique in verse and prose. It is [...] an eloquent rejoinder to those who say poetry can't, or shouldn't, concern itself with public matters.'
    Bernard O'Donoghue
    'Taking Mesopotamia is a stunning collection, one that sticks to you like a burr after you've read it. It is as if in writing it, Jenny Lewis has stumbled across one of the marvels contained within the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of its groves of jewels - and laid it out across the page for us to look at.'
    Laura Scott, The North
     'Taking Mesopotamia is easily the best collection of poetry I've read so far this year.'
    Gareth Prior
    'Her poems delve into her own past, recalling with powerful specificity...'
    Sarah Crown, Guardian
    'In this haunted and haunting collection, intuition leads cognition in a pas de deux of great power and beauty.'
    Jon Stallworthy, Oxford Times
    'Jenny Lewis' Taking Mesopotamia is a brilliantly conceived and executed, very moving book... This is a modernist route - we will see more poetry collections built on these lines.'
    Dilys Wood, Artemis
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