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Taking Mesopotamia

Jenny Lewis

Cover of Taking Mesopotamia by Jenny Lewis
RRP: GBP 9.95
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Price: GBP 8.96
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Paperback
ISBN: 978 1 906188 11 5
Categories: 21st Century, Arabic, British, War writings, Women
Imprint: OxfordPoets
Published: March 2014
216 x 137 x 10 mm
96 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: eBook (Kindle), eBook (EPUB), eBook (PDF)
  • Description
  • Excerpt
  • Author
  • Reviews
  • Father

    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.

    Jenny Lewis is an Anglo-Welsh poet, playwright, songwriter, children’s author and translator who teaches poetry at Oxford University. She trained as a painter at the Ruskin School of Art before reading English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. She has worked as an advertising copywriter and a government press officer for, among ... read more
    '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
    '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
    '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 can't, 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 - 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 '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
    '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
    '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
    '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
    '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
    '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)
    '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 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
    '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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