From Base Materials by Jenny Lewis: Carcanet Online Book Launch

  • DATE

    5 June 2024

  • TIME

    7:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • AGES

    All ages welcome



Please join us to celebrate the launch of From Base Materials by Jenny Lewis. The reading will be hosted by poet and editor Maya C. Popa. The event will feature readings and discussion, and audience members will have the opportunity to ask their own questions. We will show the text during readings so that you can read along.

Registration for this online event will cost £2, redeemable against the cost of the book. You will receive the discount code and instructions for how to purchase the book in your confirmation email as well as during and after the event.

Register here and let us know you can make it by joining and sharing the Facebook listing.

Rich and various, From Base Materials ranges thematically from violence towards women, love in old age and surviving cancer to translations from Arabic and Russian and a topical re-imagining of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The poems speak of formation, transformation and the struggles of the human spirit to transmute ‘base matter’ and accept mortality and frailty of the flesh with courage and compassion. For the long poem, ‘Love in Old Age’, Jenny Lewis says: ‘Although it addresses a lover, it is really about multiple experiences of love (both real and imagined) throughout a long life and how I am as much a literary construct as a human individual. I have drawn on literature that has shaped me, including the Epic of Gilgamesh, early Celtic nature poetry and hermit poetry and, more recently, feminist writings such as those of Hélène Cixous.’

‘Poems of great candour and beauty that address injustice, reckoning, and transformation.’
Maya C. Popa

Jenny Lewis brings the ancient past with her into her poetry, skilfully weaving together history with narration, philosophy with religion and prose with verse. Her similes are in a class of their own.’
Salah Niazi

‘An intense and informed love of language.’
Mimi Khalvati

‘Jenny Lewis is a lyricist for the end times. Technically flawless and blunt, this collection is a fine example of how poetry helps humanity cope.’
Claire Crowther

About the speakers:

Jenny Lewis is a poet, playwright, translator and songwriter who teaches poetry at Oxford University. She was educated at the Royal Masonic School (Weybridge and Rickmansworth) and then at the Ruskin School of Art and, later, St Edmund Hall, Oxford. She gained an MPhil in Poetry from the University of South Wales and a PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, London University where her dissertation was ‘Translating epic poetry from an unfamiliar language.’ Jenny has had seven plays and poetry cycles performed with music and dance at major UK theatres including the Royal Festival Hall and Pegasus Theatre, Oxford where she was a Core Writing Tutor for 20 years, working mainly with the flagship Pegasus Youth Theatre for which she wrote After Gilgamesh (2012) and, with Yasmin Sidhwa and Adnan Al-Sayegh, Journeys to Freedom: A Retelling of the 1001 Arabian Nights (2015). Jenny has published four collections including Taking Mesopotamia (Oxford Poets/ Carcanet 2014) and Gilgamesh Retold (Carcanet Classics, 2018) which was a New Statesman Book of the Year, a LRB Bookshop Book of the Week and Carcanet’s first ever audiobook. Jenny has also published three chapbooks from Mulfran Press in English and Arabic with the exiled Iraqi poet Adnan Al-Sayegh which are part of the award-winning, Arts Council-funded ‘Writing Mesopotamia’ project aimed at building bridges between English and Arabic-speaking communities. The project included collaborations with artists, musicians and film-makers; seminars and readings at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the British Museum and the Iraqi Embassy; and a song, ‘Anthem for Gilgamesh’ which has had over 100,000 hits on YouTube and Arab websites. Let me tell you what I saw, Jenny’s translation (with others) of extracts from Adnan’s work, was published by Seren in 2020. Jenny’s first poetry book, When I Became an Amazon (Iron Press, 1996/ Bilingua, Russia, 2002) was made into an opera, with music by Gennadyi Shiroglazov, performed in English by the Tchaikovsky Opera and Ballet Company in 2017 and in Russian for International Women’s Day 2023, by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Jenny’s poems, reviews and articles have been published by leading journals, including The Cork Literary Review, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, Poetry Salzburg Review, PN Review, The Poetry Review and World Literature Today. Jenny’s album of her 1960’s songs, including ‘Seventeen Pink Sugar Elephants’ (co-written and arranged by Vashti Bunyan), is forthcoming in 2024.

Dr. Maya C. Popa (b. 1989) is most recently the author of Wound is the Origin of Wonder (W.W. Norton 2022; Picador 2023) and the chapbook Dear Life (SmithDoorstop 2022), which was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Awards (UK). Wound is the Origin of Wonder was named one of the Guardian’s Best Books of Poetry and has been featured in The Washington Post, The Irish Times, The Harvard Review, Booklist, and elsewhere. Her newsletter, Poetry Today, is a Substack bestseller and featured publication.