Reviews

Review extracts

Claire Williamson reviews Taking Mesoptamia on Good Reads 2016

  1. Taking Mesopotamia, 2014

Jenny Lewis: Taking Mesopotamia (Oxford Poets/ Carcanet, March 2014)

“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

“A complex, humane, painful, intelligent book that works on many levels at once…it feels as though Lewis is doing with time what the earliest cubist paintings did with space, folding multiple perspectives and chronologies… The overall effect is less a comparison between different time periods than a sense of multiple timescales coexisting at once…” Gareth Prior, Folding Time

“Pride of place for this summer’s reading is Jenny Lewis’s Taking Mesopotamia (Carcanet)…A wonderfully layered collection, diverse in focus and technique but unified by the theme of Mesopotamia/Iraq. An inspiration.” The Poetry Society

“Jenny’s own poems…sit and shine in their woven clasp of photographs and written forms…[Taking Mesopotamia] brings into focus both the cluster of men stepping out of their uniforms by the Tigris in 1916 and the dilemmas of our continuing military deployments. For all our sophistication and sophistry, we are, essentially, naked by the flowing waters.” Tony Curtis, Poetry Wales

“[Taking Mesopotamia] is a lyrical collection of poetry, witness statements, interviews, diary entries and reports that have been meticulously researched…Lewis will take many on the search with her, such is the overwhelming poignancy of the work, which is testimony that there is a place for poetry in politics.” Jane Fraser, New Welsh Review

“The reach of this collection is impressive. Ostensibly a search for her lost father, and using diary extracts, interviews, witness statements, poems and photographs to create poetic reportage, Lewis has moved beyond the personal. Through this multi-layered narrative she entwines her father’s experience in the Mesopotamian campaign of World War 1, the recent wars in Iraq and the Epic of Gilgamesh to reflect on the futility of war, and the moral bankruptcy of Empire… The potency of this collection lies in its combined effects.  Starting from a very personal “recovery” of her father, Lewis demands our engagement with loss, love, and the power of myth.”  Jane Baston, DURA

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

Taking Mesopotamia offers the depth of an epic with the tight curation and lyricism of the best contemporary poetry. A topic this ambitious in scope necessitates an original execution. The storytelling Lewis undertakes pays tribute to this tradition in its complexity, reminding us that poetry was at the heart of ancient Mesopotamia and remains a part of Iraq’s culture.” Maya Popa, PN Review

“There is both richness in the language and restraint. The syntax is wonderfully supple and shows an intense and informed love of language. [The] diction is both scintillating and plain – congratulations on an original and achieved conception.” Mimi Khalvati on “Lunette” from Taking Mesopotamia.

“While bringing back to life this immense cultural heritage, Jenny Lewis also shares with us the tribulations of wars and exile …proving to us that poetry, in this day and age is, as it always has been, capable of creating change.”  Adnan Al-Sayegh, Iraqi Poet, winner of the Hellman – Hammet International Poetry Award (New York 1996), the Rotterdam International Poetry Award (1997) and the Swedish Writers Association Award (2005).

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

“First, Jenny Lewis’s wonderful Taking Mesopotamia (Carcanet), which in one slim volume mines a rich seam from the Epic of Gilgamesh via Welsh mining communities and the First World War to the most recent Iraq wars. Powerful, moving and musical.” David Attwooll, The Poetry Society (What to read this summer.)

“Having just traced my Great Uncle Edward C Baker PTE to joining up at 17 in 1914 and dying here in 1916 I was very moved by this book. The Great War in Mesopotamia was an absolute nightmare for the British, especially the Dorsetshire Regiment, with few if any returning after being taken prisoners of war. So sad that today Iraq is still the same war zone and Amara war cemetery is still a no go area.” Paula Sheppard, Amazon Customer Review *****

“An insightful collection of poetry and prose. Poignant memories, echoes from the past – resonating in the present. With only 94 pages this ‘little book, with emotive clout’ can be read in one sitting – however can only be truly digested/embraced through re-visitation.” Gloria, Amazon Customer Review ****

“This is a wonderful, thought-provoking, sensitive book of prose, poetry, interviews and pictures. Jenny’s loving search for her late father during his time serving in WW1 Mesopotamia and the contextualisation of modern day war in Iraq make this an evocative and timeless account of the helpless stupidity of conflict. Beautifully crafted and evoked.” Douglas Adamson, Goodreads ****

“[In Taking Mesopotamia] The poet has taken a fierce stand against abuse, violence, aggression, oppression and, very simply, against War…because at heart she is a humanist.  To quote Adnan al-Sayegh’s statement: ‘Freedom is always more beautiful’.” Eddy Bonte, Radio68

  1. After Gilgamesh, 2011

Jenny Lewis: After Gilgamesh, 64 pages, Mulfran Press, £7.00
With notes on writing and devising for Youth Theatre and photos of the production process. http://www.mulfran.co.uk/JennyLewis.html

“The UK-published text [of After Gilgamesh] is a pointer to the possibilities
of poetry in the digital age, notably in the intersection and dissemination of
poetry and performance art. The published text’s amalgam of poetry and Iraq War subject matter also has the potential to be used as a teaching aid for high school students, in both poetry/English courses and contemporary and ancient history classes. … the slang, farce and satire add vitality. The almost vaudevillian aura evoked by the boisterous market-place Ancient World scenes – and the inclusion of black and white photos of the crew and young cast in rehearsal – gives you a sense of what the play might have been like on the stage” Roberta Lowing, Mascara Literary Review

“I was left in a state of awe…All in all, this piece was masterfully written, performed and directed; the projection of the actors, the tightness of the vocals and the stunning choreography really made this piece work and demonstrated the triumphant talent of Pegasus Theatre’s Youth Companies. Bravo to Pegasus.”Oxford Daily Info

“Jenny Lewis writes with an elegance that is seamless, subtly cadenced, and full of understated lyricism. Additionally, her expert use of formal structures and deft dialogue makes her a writer of extraordinary intelligence.” Sudeep Sen Atlas Arts

After Gilgamesh is an unusual new play by Jenny Lewis that maps the ancient story of Gilgamesh – the God-King of Uruk who lived around 2700 BC – onto the modern story of an Iraq war soldier who lies wounded in hospital in 2005. The author links these very different lives by forcing both characters to confront the loss of a close friend. The gutsy teens of The Pegasus Youth Theatre rose to the challenge of Jenny Lewis’s demanding and unusual play to create a provocative production that is by turns funny and heartbreaking, and stunning in its energy and professionalism.”” Amy Jenkins Daily Information

“The language operates at many levels, as verse must today. There are the strophic, Eliotine choruses and the quick, colloquial banter of terrible Gods. Yet back at the Modern level, the diction modulates to parody war-gaming vocabulary and TV reality games, an ambitious rhetoric that comes near to the achievement of Dennis Potter… In a world whose mise en scene is set by the Post-Modern disillusionment, it is promising to hear the conditional optimism of the closing moments of the play… After Gilgamesh is an issue-oriented piece of writing. Like Joan Lingard’s Across the Barricades, its audience is the young adult.” Duncan McGibbon


  1. Fathom, 2007

Fathom, by Jenny Lewis, Oxford Poets/ Carcanet 2007.

“Her poems employ many of the techniques of painting, drawing readers
in through the gleam of colours so intense and appealing as to be almost
edible: ‘dark plum and liquorice’, ‘rose and burnt caramel’, ‘sunlight in
squares as shiny as toffee’” Sarah Crown, The Guardian

“[Of Fathom] One of the most moving aspects of her voice is the fingertip delicacy of her curiosity about the ways in which our physical world and selves are pulled
continually toward dissolution and diffusion.” Jane Draycott

“[Of Fathom] In this haunted and haunting collection, intuition leads cognition in a pas de deux of great power and beauty.” Jon Stallworthy, Oxford Times

 

  1. When I Became an Amazon

By Jenny Lewis: When I Became an Amazon, Iron Press, 1996, £5.99 (inc. p&p]
http://www.ironpress.co.uk/books/whenIBecameAnAmazon.html

“An authentic voice for women.” Chapman’s Review

“[When I Became an Amazon] is an extraordinary piece, raw, moving and
powerful.” Katie Mitchell, Royal Shakespeare Company.

6 thoughts on “Reviews

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