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The Mundiad

2014 - Shortlisted


Judges' comments

This audacious mock epic revisits classical poems in the mode of Virgil, John Milton or Alexander Pope. It’s the fabulously irreverent and volatile story of a lusty liaison between Juliano Parataxis and Sophy Vesperal and the conception and eventual premature birth of their daughter, Mundia. She is a reluctant newborn who is counselled, in the many challenges of her oft-thwarted prospects, by a disreputable supernatural Dream Parrot.

Justin Clemens’ poetry is provocative and exciting, funny and sensational in both topic and technique as he oxygenates traditional form for today’s readers. Scholarly without being ponderous, replete with philosophy and linguistics, teeming with wit and literary jokes, beautifully elegiac about popular culture, Justin Clemens revives the ancient poetic ambition to speak differently about the world. There is an antic energy in the poems as they work their superb critique of historical power and worldly detritus in heroic couplets and quatrains. Clemens' vocabulary is as extravagant as his imagination. In the last and sixth Book, Mundia faces the unexpected arrival of her nemeses, ‘both dressed like gangsters in designer gear’, and she is very promptly dealt with. The Mundiad concludes with astute yet ribald discourses on power and tyranny, disseminated in a brothel. There is a wonderful artistry to this poetry.