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Categories: 21st Century, Ancient Greek and Roman, British
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (88 pages)
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Homunculus is a long poem from award-winning poet and translator James Womack, based around the Elegies of the Roman poet Maximian. The last of the Roman poets, Maximian wrote in the sixth century, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire; critics have called his Elegies 'one of the strangest documents of the human mind', and W.H. Auden singled him out as a 'really remarkable poet'. Womack's versioning of the Elegies shows how this harsh poem of sex and old age can speak to our own contemporary, collapsing world.
Awards won by James Womack Short-listed, 2019 The Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize for Second Collections
(On Trust ) Long-listed, 2018 The International Dylan Thomas Prize (On Trust ) Long-listed, 2018 Read Russia Prize (Vladimir Mayakovsky)
'This interpretation of the Elegies puts a modern spin on the serious nature of content, creating a rhythmic flow of references woven into the pacing of the poem [...] Womack's Homunculus is brutally, even indecently honest about the titular character's feelings and thoughts.'
Allen Chiu, DURA Dundee
Praise for James Womack 'With an ear finely tuned to colloquial speech and a knack for deadpan delivery, Womack gives Vilas' poems a thoroughly convincing new life in English'
Jennifer Barber, The Critical Flame
'James Womack's translations are immaculate distillations of Vilas... Vilas' poems are long and decadent affairs, euphoric tales of drunken debauchery told through a first person narrative.'
Charlie Baylis, Stride Magazine
'Vilas is an accomplished, freewheeling storyteller, forever leading his readers into unexpected byways...James Womack's translations of these beguiling narrative poems, selected from two of Vilas' collections published in 2000 and 2008, are so vivid, natural-seeming and alert to every nuance and shade of feeling that they scarcely register as translations at all.'
Paul Bailey, Literary Review
'witty, nuanced, urbane'
Clark Allison, Stride Magazine
'True to its title, On Trust: A Book of Lies explores the metamorphic landscapes of shifting allegiance and unstable epistemologies. Writing a cunning jazz line in one poem and a supple passage of lyric prose in the next, Womack matches limberness of method to his ambitious subject: the shifting instabilities of character, circumstance, and faith.'
Judges, Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize for Second Collections
'This is a gorgeous book. The reader will find it either a seductive introduction or a thrilling reunion. James Womack's translations are bristling with appropriate vigour.'
In James Womack's 'book of lies', in the court of love and the erotic, where honesty may be a necessary contrivance, the speaker is both accuser and accused. The poems display a wry, mordant romanticism which manages to be at war with itself while keeping a keen eye on the imaginative opportunities. On Trust is a witty, eloquent, troubling collection.'
Sean O'Brien 'The first half of On Trust is about a love affair, which is true to all the stumbles of falling in love. An actual affair? Or a vivid thought-experiment? It is both and neither. It is Schrödinger's pussy. It is and it isn't. 'In your park, the wind pushes at an empty swing.' Inventive, clever, funny, rueful, ironic, hypnotised by the erotic.'
Craig Raine 'Technically adept, self-consciously ironic, and provocative about the nature of art and the role of the artist... Often I felt as if I was being taken aside and told a joke that's ridiculously funny at the same time as being deadly serious. '
Heidi Williamson, Eyewear 'James Womack is another bright young poet... he is capable of lugubrious comic inventions such as 'From the Literary Encyclopaedia', which charts an experimental novelist's doomed career, alongside 'Tourism', a clipped and chilly poem about the export of jihadis to the Middle East... on the evidence of Misprint Womack has scope, curiosity and a refreshing sense of not having foresuffered everything he encounters.'
Sean O'Brien, The Sunday Times 'In 'Vladimir Mayakovsky' and Other Poems the poet James Womack has put together the comprehensive selection of Mayakovsky's poems I have long been waiting for. His fresh translation allows English readers to appreciate the non-aligned and passionate personality of the Russian poet. I recommend a few lines twice a day to protect against dry academic writing.'
The Times Higher Education Best Books of 2016
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