Jenny Lewis is an Anglo-Welsh poet and playwright who teaches poetry at Oxford University. She trained as a painter at the Ruskin School of Art and Ealing School of Art before reading English at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford and gaining an MPhil in Poetry from the University of South Wales. Jenny specialises in cross-arts collaborations of poetry, music, dance and visual art and for 20 years was a Core Writing Tutor at Pegasus Theatre, Oxford. She has worked as a copywriter in London agencies and as a press officer, including for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Jenny is currently completing a PhD on Gilgamesh at Goldsmiths, London University.
Jenny’s first publication, When I Became an Amazon (Iron Press, 1996/ Bilingua, Russia 2002), was broadcast on BBC Woman’s Hour and has been made into an opera with music by Gennadyi Shioglazov which had its world premiere in Perm, Russia in 2017, performed by the Tchaikovsky Opera and Ballet Company. Her recent publications are Fathom (2007) and Taking Mesopotamia (2014), both from Oxford Poets/ Carcanet, and three chapbooks of poetry in English and Arabic with the Iraqi poet, Adnan Al-Sayegh from Mulfran Press – Now as Then: Mesopotamia-Iraq (2013), Singing for Inanna (2014) and The Flood (2017). Her poetry, reviews and articles have been published by leading journals including Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, Poetry London, PN Review, Poetry Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and World Literature Today and her prizes and awards include the Warden’s Prize for Public Engagement, Goldsmiths, 2016, a Hawthornden Fellowship, 2012 and the New Writer Prize 1997. Her most recent book is Gilgamesh Retold, a poetic re-imagining of the Epic of Gilgamesh from a woman’s viewpoint, published by Carcanet Press, October 2018.
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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