Jenny Lewis is a poet, playwright, songwriter and translator who teaches poetry at Oxford University. She has had seven plays and poetry cycles performed at major UK theatres including the Leicester Haymarket, the Royal Festival Hall, the Polka Theatre, London (for children) and Pegasus Theatre, Oxford where Jenny was a Core Writing Tutor for 20 years. Her first book of poetry, When I Became an Amazon (Iron Press, 1996) was broadcast on BBC Woman’s Hour, translated into Russian, made into an opera and first performed by the Tchaikovsky Opera and Ballet Company of Perm, Russia in 2017. Jenny has published three further collections, Fathom and Taking Mesopotamia (Oxford Poets/ Carcanet, 2007/ 2014) and Gilgamesh Retold (Carcanet Classics, 2018) which was a New Statesman Book of the Year, a Carcanet Book of the Year and an LRB Bookshop Book of the Week on publication. Jenny has also published three chapbooks from Mulfran Press in English and Arabic with the exiled Iraqi poet Adnan Al-Sayegh – Now as Then: Mesopotamia-Iraq (2013), Singing for Inanna (2014) and The Flood (2017) which are part of the award-winning, Arts Council-funded ‘Writing Mesopotamia’ project aimed at fostering friendship between English and Arabic-speaking communities. Her translation (with Ruba Abughaida and others) of Al-Sayegh’s work, ‘Let me tell you what I saw…! is forthcoming from Seren in October 2020.
Theatre and performance
Her work for theatre includes The Art of Loving Honourably, a poetry and early music cycle based on troubadour lyrics with the early music group, Third Voice (literary festivals and Royal Festival Hall, London, 2003) and Map of Stars (2002), Garden of the Senses (2005) and After Gilgamesh (2011) all for Pegasus Theatre, Oxford.
Jenny started as a songwriter with her friend Vashti Bunyan in the 1960s. They wrote ‘17 Pink Sugar Elephants’ together which Vashti transformed into the haunting Train Song used on TV commercials and the US TV series True Detective. Jenny’s song Anthem for Gilgamesh (part of the ‘Writing Mesopotamia’ project) has launched several festivals (including the Berlin Festival of Poetry and Human Rights, 2014).
Reviews of Taking Mesopotamia
[Taking Mesopotamia] is compulsory reading, even for those who don’t normally read poetry: an eloquent rejoinder to those who say poetry can’t, or shouldn’t, concern itself with public matters.”
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