An Egyptian Adventure: reading my poetry at the 50th Jubilee of the Cairo International Book Fair and Festival, 2019

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A welcome invitation from my friend, the Egyptian novelist and academic, Dr. Bahaa Abdelmegid, led to my first visit to Egypt, a new poem, a chance to follow up my father’s story and the opportunity to read my poetry at the 50th Jubilee of the Cairo International Book Fair and Festival which ran from 23rd January to 5th February 2019.

Adnan, Jenny, reading with photo

Camel and photo

Bahaa, who teaches at Ain Shams University in Cairo  (his PhD was on the poetry of Seamus Heaney and he has written extensively on English Literature including on James Joyce and Sylvia Plath) arranged for me and Adnan al-Sayegh to go to the pyramids at Giza. This was especially exciting as I have a photo of my father on a camel in front of the Sphinx with the pyramids in the background. It was taken in August 1918 when my father, aged 20, was presumably on his way home from India, from where he had been invalided out of the Mesopotamian Campaign of the First World War in 1917. I showed the photo and read several poems from Taking Mesopotamia (Oxford Poets/ Carcanet, 2014) including my poem, ‘Father’,  at our reading on Sunday 3 February – much to the audience’s delight.

I had written a new poem for the festival – A Love Letter to Egypt – which was translated into Arabic by Ruba Abughaida and edited by Adnan – my first new poem since finishing my latest book, Gilgamesh Retold (Carcanet, 2018) and the start of my next book (hopefully). At an earlier event, I‘d had the chance to discuss poetry and translation with the hugely engaged and attentive audience who requested more such events in the future.

The Nile at night

The trip concluded with a magical evening in downtown Cairo (The City that Never Sleeps) with Bahaa and Adnan and several poets and friends that we bumped into as the evening progressed. Standing by the Nile in the moonlight I reflected on how poetry has changed and enriched my life beyond measure – and was grateful.


GILGAMESH, Lewis fcpI’ll be launching Gilgamesh Retold at the WOODSTOCK POETRY FESTIVAL, 7.30pm, Sunday 11 November. Tickets £5 to include a complimentary glass of wine and chance to read in the open mic (please book in advance). Do join me! More details about the fabulous festival and ways to book here – Woodstock Poetry Festival

Adnan with young poets
Adnan al-Sayegh snapped with some of the great young open mic readers in last year’s festival

BookBlast 10×10 Tour talk at Waterstones, Manchester plus interview


Meet Jenny Lewis in person at the tenth and final BookBlast 10×10 Tour talk at  Waterstones, Manchester, Deansgate @waterstonesMCR 6.30 p.m. Thursday 8 November. Theme: Claiming the Great Tradition: Women Recalibrate the Classics. In conversation with Michael Schmidt @Carcanet, chair, and poet & translator, Jane Draycott. Book Tickets

Follow this link for the full Bookblast interview online.


Wednesday 3 October, 2018; Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross SE14 6NW
Free admission – to attend please email Maria MacDonald
I will be taking part in a a reading and discussion with Michael Schmidt, of Carcanet Press, and Philip Terry on translating ancient texts, specifically our new versions of the Epic of Gilgamesh – my Gilgamesh Retold and Philip’s Dictator. How can one poem speak in such different voices and authorise such different responses? RHB 137, followed by a drinks reception.
of my Gilgamesh Retold and Philip Terry’s Dictator, Kingsway Corridor, RHB, with readings by the poets and by Adnan al-Sayegh. Introduced by Michael Schmidt.


National Poetry Day event at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 4th October

4 OCTOBER, 2018
Ancient Near East Gallery.
Free event. All welcome.
I’m really excited to be talking about my six year doctoral research into the Epic of Gilgamesh for my new book, Gilgamesh Retold (Carcanet Press, October 2018) which won the 2016 Warden’s Award for Public Engagement at Goldsmiths. We’ll look at how new ways of interpreting old texts can help us to experience them afresh and open them up to new audiences. I’ll also read you some short extracts from Gilgamesh Retold and I look forward to discussing them with you.



On FRIDAY 6th JULY, from 6.30-8.30pm
At the Quaker Meeting House, St. Giles, Oxford;
Tickets at the door – £4
Doors open at 6.15pm. Refreshments available.

For details please email

Poet's House 2

Jamie McKendrick has published six books of poetry, including The Marble Fly (O.U.P. 1997) which won the Forward Prize and, most recently, Out There (Faber, 2012) which won the Hawthornden Prize. A selected poems, Sky Nails, was published by Faber in 2001, and a new Selected Poems was published in 2016. Clutag Five Poems Series published his pamphlet Repairwork earlier this year. His translations from Italian have won the Oxford-Weidenfeld prize and the John Florio prize. Penguin Modern Classics have published his translations of five books by Giorgio Bassani and his translation of The Heron is due in 2018.

Jennie Carr has lived in the south and north of England and for a time in New Zealand.  Her poems have appeared in various journals including Poetry News, The Cannon’s MouthBrittlestarThe Frogmore Papers and Oxford Poetry and in the anthology The Book of Love and Loss (Belgrave Press 2014). She won first prize for poetry in the 2016 Brittlestar writing competition. In 2018 she won the Littoral Press nature collection competition with her collection A Tilt in the Year.

Maya Catherine Popa is a writer and teacher in NYC. She is the recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Editor Prize and winner of the Hippocrates and Gregory O’Donoghue Prizes. Her chapbook The Bees Have Been Canceled was a PBS summer choice in 2017. Her second chapbook, You Always Wished the Animals Would Leave, was published in March 2018. Her poems have appeared in PN Review, Tin House, Kenyon Review, Poetry London, and elsewhere. She teaches English Literature and directs the Creative Writing Program at the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York City.


Frances-Anne King wins inaugural SciPo Poetry Competition

Frances Anne mono23

SciPo, the annual science poetry event run by The Poet’s House, Oxford with St Hilda’s College, Oxford, has just held its first science poetry competition, judged by Jane Draycott. Many congratulations to the winner, Frances-Anne King, for her poem ‘Home Thoughts from the Red Planet’.

Home Thoughts from the Red Planet

It was considered weakness to look back
so they didn’t speak of it, but images
spored inside their heads and spread
across their dreams at night. Some stashed
files, chose rare fonts – as if to keep the past
alive more vividly. Some wrote of trees;
oak, aspen, cypress, silver birch, pelts
of balsam fir across a mountain range,
the shape and texture of a leaf, the vibrancy
or calm of some particular shade of green.

A man described a wheat field ripening under sun,
the weight and sea-sway of wind-pulled crops.
A woman, haunted by cycles of return, explained
the pattern play of swallows in an autumn sky;
how they forage on the wing, the skim and swoop
of cobalt feathers across the surface of a lake.
Another recorded the last bee she’d seen, a red carder,
and sketched it in the margins of each page.
Through all their notes the memory of blue
in all its myriad shades, repeated and repeated.

Frances-Anne King

Frances-Anne and some of the other prizewinners will read their poems at the prize giving after discussions with, and poetry readings by, the distinguished poets Carrie Etter and Philip Gross. The event will be chaired by its co-organiser – the poet and Emeritus Fellow in Plant Sciences at St Hilda’s College, Sarah Watkinson. For further details and to book, please follow this link –
We look forward to seeing you.


SciPo2018 Poetry Competition Results


Judge: Jane Draycott


1st: Home Thoughts from the Red Planet, Frances-Anne King

2nd: Vital Signs, Lesley Saunders

joint 3rd: Flash-flood/Quilt, Chris Poole; and Security Alert, Susan Wood
Commended (in no particular order): Sea Change, Sasha Rasmussen; Gravity Anomalies, Rowena Warwick;  Expect Extreme Weather, Pat Edwards; Deception Island, Catherine Faulds; The Ignorance of Fish, Afric McGlinchey; Unripe, Jemma Borg


1st: The Hunted, Imogen Phillips
2nd: Everything’s Fine, Daisy Stillborn
3rd: Gone, Abigail Hawkesworth

SciPo 2018 – a meeting of science and poetry Saturday 9th June

Saturday 9th June, 2018, 10.30-4.30

St Hilda’s College



For the third annual Science Poetry event, organized by me for The Poet’s House Oxford and Sarah Watkinson for St Hilda’s College, we are delighted to welcome guest poets Carrie Etter and Philip Gross to read their work and lead a plenary discussion on the creative common ground linking poetry and science. The discussion will be chaired by Sarah and the event introduced and compered by myself and St Hilda’s lecturer Elsa Hammond. This year SciPo will be broadly themed around the topic of Climate Change, and will include a free-to-enter poetry competition judged by the distinguished poet, Jane Draycott, with winners invited to read at the event. The day will end with an open mic session. Do bring a science-related poem of your own to read. We look forward very much to sharing another SciPo with you.

Tickets: £35 – Click here to book, and for competition entry form and rules:

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Carrie Etter holds a BA from the University of California, Los Angeles and an MFA, MA and PhD from the University of California, Irvine. Her poems have appeared in The New StatesmanPoetry ReviewThe RialtoThe Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere, while in the US her poems have appeared in The Iowa ReviewThe New RepublicSeneca Review, and many other journals. She is also an essayist and a critic. Her reviews of contemporary poetry have appeared in The IndependentThe Guardian, and The Times Literary Supplement, among others. Etter has published essays on Sherman Alexie, Peter Reading and W. B. Yeats. She won the London New Poetry Award for a best first collection published in the UK and Ireland in the preceding year, for The Tethers. In 2013 she received an Authors’ Foundation grant from the Society of Authors for work on her third collection, Imagined Sons, which went on to be shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry by the Poetry Society.

Philip Gross has won major prizes including the T.S. Eliot Prize for his collection of poems, The Water Table (2009), an Eric Gregory Award (1981) and the National Poetry Competition (1982). He has been judge for many poetry competitions – in 2014 judging the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, the Magma Poetry Competition and the Medicine Unboxed Creative Prize. His earlier poetry collections include The Ice FactoryCat’s WhiskerThe Son of the Duke of NowhereI.D.The Wasting Game – all collected in Changes of Address: Poems 1980-98. Of his more recent work, the Poetry Book Society selectors wrote ‘At the heart of all of Gross’s collections has been his deep enquiry into and fascination with the nature of embodiment and existence, what water is and does in The Water Table, the role of language, and speech especially, in identity and the self in Deep Field and Later. Now in Love Songs of Carbon Gross tests and feels his amazed way through the mysteries of the multiple manifestations of love and ageing.’

Sarah Watkinson is Emeritus Fellow at St Hilda’s College Oxford and at Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, where she researched and published extensively on the molecular transformations by which fungi play key roles in the terrestrial carbon cycle, and won an Oxford University teaching award for her course on Molecular Microbial Ecology. She is lead author of the internationally respected textbook, The Fungi, third edition 2016, Elsevier. Since gaining the Oxford University Continuing Education Diploma in Creative Writing in 2012 and becoming a student of The Poet’s House Oxford, her poetry has won the Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Prize for Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight published in 2017, and won or been placed in competitions judged by Carrie Etter, David Morley and George Szirtes, as well as appearing in anthologies and magazines including Antiphon, Ink Sweat & Tears, Litmus, Pennine Platform, Under the Radar, Rialto and Well Versed.