Shortlisted for the 2022

what words did your mother give 
you    to prepare you for this 

from ‘Cranach’s Judith 1530’

stone men
by Jeni Curtis

published by Sudden Valley Press
Available from June 2023
ISBN: 9780473635848
paperback; 100 p.
rrp $25

In her debut poetry collection,  stone men, Jeni Curtis takes the myth of Medusa as a lens to examine attitudes to women and womanhood – from ancient to modern, from virgin to whore, from mother to child. 

Shortlisted for the 2022 John O’Connor Award, in the words of judge Elizabeth Smither, stone men is ‘an intelligent, daring collection, shot through with humour’.

            I search the bloodline
for Vikings    spit in the tube
indebted to Ancestry
for the unravelling
of the double helix    the intertwined
spirals of what I thought
and what I    am    Viking

from ‘Viking in a bottle’

stone men is a powerful, poetic reconfiguring of womanhood. Channelling ancient myths, metaphysical wisdom, maternal fable and memory, Curtis lyrically and astutely examines and refreshes what it means to be a woman. Throughout the poems are sumptuously structured in form and story. What results is a fresh way of storytelling, one which repurposes the traditions of lyric and folklore into a provocative, liberating modern day manual of muliebrity.


I made you all    in your own
image    your true selves
my yard is cluttered with lichened
forms    like the statuary section
at the garden centre
I turned you to granite

from ‘The stone men

The funny thing about Jeni Curtis’s stone men is that it’s not about the men at all. A cast of wronged women from myth and history (including Medusa, with her famous ability to petrify) correct the record and reinscribe their own stories into it, while speakers from our own moment have to fight the ossifying forces of time armed only with brilliance and love. The language has the precise rhythms of a melody rapped out with musical bones. These are bracing poems about agency, power, memory, and loss.


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