Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis (1998, English) is a poet, songwriter, playwright, screenwriter, and children’s author. She studied at the Ruskin School of Art and later at Oxford’s Department of Continuing Education, where she was awarded a Diploma. Jenny came to the Hall as a mature student.

While she was an undergraduate at the Ruskin she met the singer/ songwriter Vashti Bunyan and formed a group with another Ruskin student, Angy Man. They performed with The Four Beats (later, The Dark Blues) before going on to separate recording contracts. A song she co-wrote with Vashti (Train Song) has recently been used on TV commercials for Reebok and Samsung. Jenny later wrote children’s books and plays including The Lonely Skyscraper (Walker Books, 1981), A Handbook of Family Monsters (Dent, 1982) Me and My Dinosaur (Polka Theatre 1988) and a 26-part TV animation series, James the Cat.

Jenny’s epic poem When I Became an Amazon was published by Iron Press in 1996, and has been translated into Russian, as well as widely performed and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service. Together with Lucy Newlyn she edited Synergies: Creative Writing in Academic Practice, the outcome of a workshop experiment at the Hall (2 vols., 2003, 2004). Her second collection, Fathom, was published in 2007 by Oxford Poets/Carcanet Press.

Her play After Gilgamesh was performed in March 2011 at the Pegasus Theatre Oxford and published the same year by Mulfran Press.

Jenny has also worked extensively on cross arts and large community theatre projects which combine text with music, dance and art installations including a poetry and rock musical Map of Stars, a poetry cycle with music and dance inspired by Ancrene Wisse - Garden of the Senses – and a poetry cycle inspired by troubadour lyrics with the early music group, Third Voice, The Art of Loving Honourably, commissioned by the Oxford Literary Festival with extracts performed at the Royal Festival Hall.

In 2012 she held a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship for Writers. Her third collection, Taking Mesopotamia, was published by Oxford Poets/ Carcanet in March 2014. In 2014 she also worked as dramaturg and lyricist on Pegasus Theatre’s Stories for Survival: a Re-imagining of the 1001 Arabian Nights and collaborated with the Iraqi poet, Adnan Al-Sayegh, musicians and film-makers on a major Arts Council funded project - Writing Mesopotamia - which resulted in workshops and performances at the British Museum, Iraqi Cultural Centre and elsewhere and two pamphlets of poetry in English and Arabic - Now as Then: Mesopotamia-Iraq (Mulfran Press 2013) and Singing for Inanna (Mulfran Press 2014).

Jenny teaches the MSt in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education (OUDCE).

“My work has two strands: the work I do alone as a poet which can be done in any position or location – sitting, walking, running, lying down – and which involves the ongoing dialogue between my self and the world around (and inside) me. This results in published poetry and consists mainly of my best words in their best order. The other strand of work, which I actually make my living from, is community work. This involves liaising with different organisations such as youth theatres, hospitals, charities (like MIND) and with a range of different disciplines including directors, composers, musicians, choreographers, dancers, visual artists, actors, film makers and (even) pyrotechnicians…

“…Apart from the heightened creativity of meshing together different art forms, being able to collaborate successfully and focus the aims of a project onto its expected outcomes becomes an important skill in itself.  Participants in your workshops may go on to become poets and artists themselves or just remember a few hours when you helped them enjoy the buzz of being creative – either is equally valid and worthwhile.”

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