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ISBN: 978 1 906188 11 5
Categories: 21st Century, Arabic, British, War writings, Women
Published: March 2014
216 x 137 x 10 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: eBook (Kindle), eBook (EPUB), eBook (PDF)
My face is made from yours -
your jaw, your weak right eye:
my shin bone’s from your leg,
shattered in the moonlight
as you supervised the digging
of the trench at Kut-al-Amara.
Years on, your long dead smile
watched us from walls, sideboards:
from our mother’s dressing table
casting a shadow round her heart
like your shadow in the album
as you pointed the camera
towards the Bridge of Boats
at Qurna, the army camp at Kut:
father, those splinters of bone
were your salvation, hard shards
from which I sprang with shared
ancestry, looking for you.
Taking Mesopotamia was originally inspired by Jenny Lewis’s search for her lost father – the young South Wales Borderer who fought in the ill-fated Mesopotamian campaign of World War I. Through reconstructed diary extracts, witness statements, formal poems and free verse, the book extends into a wider exploration of the recent Iraq wars. It also includes translations of a number of the poems into Arabic, and photographs taken by Lewis’s father on campaign in 1916. Woven throughout the book is a strand inspired by The Epic of Gilgamesh, whose themes of hubris, abuse of power and fear of death show us how little the world has changed in four thousand years.
'Taking Mesopotamia is easily the best collection of poetry I've read so far this year.'
Gareth Prior's blog '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 canât, or shouldn't, concern itself with public matters.'
Bernard O'Donoghue 'Taking Mesopotamia is a truly memorable piece of work. Lewis is an acutely attentive observer, but this is more than a poetic documentary â 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 Praise for Jenny Lewis 'In this haunted and haunting collection, intuition leads cognition in a pas de deux of great power and beauty.'
Jon Stallworthy, Oxford Times 'Her poems delve into her own past, recalling with powerful specificity...'
Sarah Crown, Guardian
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