Published 1st June 2020

Winner of the 2019 New Poets Prize judged by Mary Jean Chan

‘Katabasis’ means a descent, the sinking of the winds or sun, a military retreat, a trip down into the underworld. This mythopoetic and experimental sequence of poems, texts and translations links the ancient Sumerian epic ’The Descent of Inanna’ to contemporary neo-colonial violences as a consequence of military occupation.

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What Writers and Critics Think

  • Taking its cue from 'The Descent of Inanna', this collection is one to be savoured repeatedly. Apart from its formal experimentation, its lyric epiphanies are also a delight.

    Mary Jean Chan
  • At once spectral and vivid, timeless and current, these broken rhythms and stalled narratives attempt to sift through the wreckage of War, and to argue back to it. There are echoes of poets as diverse as Don Mee Choi, Mahmoud Darwish and Anne Carson, their influences caught on the lightning-rod of Ying’s imagination. The overall effect, as the title suggests, is of a descent into the underworld of history, language and consciousness.

    Will Harris
  • The quiet music of Jay G Ying’s long lines leads gently into the extraordinary: through doorways, into War, among insects, nerved by queer desire. Fine wordplay adorns the substantial sense that demands can come from anywhere, even the wind or a fly, while self and kinship undergo violent transfiguration.

    Vahni Capildeo


A war-torn landscape pulled together into a devastating comment on the horror and helplessness of being in ‘the zone : From which no civilian returns’, Katabasis is an immense work that can be both complex and varied but also simple and uncompromisingly true. The opening poem, ‘Forwarding’, is an excellent introduction to the whole collection, fusing evocative and specific vocabulary to create utterly original images of noteworthy distinction. ‘I burnt War’s photographs over a grave by the fountain’s dovecote’ contains a multitude of meaning in one finely executed sentence; images of fire, water, death, peace, hope and violence creates an umbrella for the themes Jay explores throughout the pamphlet.” – Foxtrot Uniform magazine (read full review here)


Jay Gao is a writer, critic and translator based in Edinburgh. He is a 2019 winner of the New Poets Prize and his debut pamphlet, Wedding Beasts, was published in 2019. He is a contributing editor at The White Review.

Additional information

Weight 0.067 kg
Dimensions 21 × 14.8 × 0.6 cm




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