Close Notification

Your cart does not contain any items


The Life of a Poem

Michael Schmidt



In stock
Ready to ship


Princeton University Pres
23 August 2019
Poetry; Literature: history & criticism; Middle Eastern history
Acclaimed literary historian Schmidt provides a unique meditation on the rediscovery of Gilgamesh and its profound influence on poets today. He describes how the poem is a work in progress even now, an undertaking that has drawn on the talents and obsessions of an unlikely cast of characters, from archaeologists and museum curators to tomb raiders and jihadis.
By:   Michael Schmidt
Imprint:   Princeton University Pres
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 140mm, 
ISBN:   9780691195247
ISBN 10:   0691195242
Pages:   192
Publication Date:   23 August 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Michael Schmidt is a literary historian, poet, novelist, translator, and anthologist as well as an editor and publisher. His books include The Novel: A Biography and The First Poets. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he received an OBE in 2006 for services to poetry and higher education. He lives in Manchester, England. Twitter @4Michael7

Reviews for Gilgamesh: The Life of a Poem

[Gilgamesh] is well-written and reads like having a chat with a down-to-earth friend who happens to be a literary scholar . . [R]ather than trying to choose which translation to read, one should start by reading Schmidt's book. It offers an intelligent but relatable introduction to Gilgamesh as well as to the scholarship and modern artistry which swirls around the nearly 4000 year old poem. ---Kelly Hydrick, Root & Press Michael Schmidt's Gilgamesh, the Life of a Poem, is stimulating, informative and elegantly written. It is to be hoped that over time it will be recognised as an indispensable guide for all future readers of Gilgamesh. ---David Cooke, Manchester Review [I]f all literary studies were written so engagingly, more people would read them . . . If you have never read Gilgamesh before, Schmidt could be Virgil to your Dante, and if you have read it before, be prepared to let it be explicated in a new and lively way and to flow over your mind like quicksilver. ---John Butler, Asian Review of Books [Michael] Schmidt presents an extended reflection on Gilgamesh, exploring the challenges and opportunities it offers modern readers. . . . Beginning with the challenge of translating without knowing the original languages, Schmidt uses his correspondence with the translators of Gilgamesh as a model to challenge modern, Western habits of interpretation and approach reading the poem on its own terms: i.e., not as an ur-Iliad but as something unique. Throughout, Schmidt emphasizes Gilgamesh's alterity, its fragmentariness, its authorlessness, the provisional nature of the text, and its refusal to fit familiar aesthetic and generic categories. This important work fills a gap between translations/introductions and the scholarship of Assyriology. ---P. E. Ojennus, Choice Reviews [Gilgamesh: The Life of a Poem] offers us an opportunity to consider not just the rewards of tradition, but its very real risks. . . . Schmidt tries to preserve the integrity of a single beloved poem. In forcing us to go back to the basics of meaning-making, Schmidt works toward a hermeneutics of modesty and care, pointing toward a more expansive, and less imperialist, approach to world literature. . . . To translate and read Gilgamesh as we read the Iliad or the Aeneid would be to neutralize the poem - and, for Schmidt and the many contemporary poets whose voices he brings into his book, to miss an opportunity to reimagine our literary origin story, or to posit a plurality of stories rather than one continuous tradition. ---Max Norman, Los Angeles Review of Books An insightful, stimulating book sure to breathe new life into the would-be immortal king. * Publishers Weekly * In Gilgamesh: The Life of a Poem, Michael Schmidt, a British poet and novelist, explains how the special character of Gilgamesh has had an outsize influence on modern writers . . . Its anonymity invites readers' responses more powerfully than other ancient works, and this book is, in the main, an exploration of those responses, obtained by Mr. Schmidt through a survey sent to 50 modern poets. . . . [Schmidt's] freshly framed observations help renew one of the world's oldest surviving tales ---James Romm, Wall Street Journal Schmidt's book deeply enriches our appreciation of a work already rich. A solid addition to all collections. ---Thomas L. Cooksey, Library Journal [A] wonderful book . . . Schmidt's argument for the poem as poetry, in the modern sense-concrete, unglazed, tough on the mind-is touching and persuasive. I read the book spellbound, in one sitting. ---Joan Acocella, New Yorker For anyone interested in language, history, or the power of a great story, this biography of a poem assures endless discoveries. ---Jeva Lange, The Week

See Also