Elaine Feinstein

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Elaine Feinstein reading at Shaar International Poetry Festival in Tel Aviv, October 2010.

Elaine Feinstein (born 24 October 1930, Bootle, Lancashire[1]) is a poet, novelist, short-story writer, playwright, biographer and translator.

Biography[edit]

Born in Bootle, Liverpool, Feinstein grew up in Leicester.[2] Her father left school at 12 and had little time for books, but was a great storyteller. He ran a small factory making wooden furniture through the 1930s. She writes "An inner certainty of being loved and valued went a long way to create my own sense of resilience in later years spent in a world that felt altogether alien. I never altogether lost my childhood sense of being fortunate.[3] Feinstein was sent to Wyggeston Grammar School for Girls by her mother, "a school as good as Leicester could provide". She wrote poems from the age of 8, which were published in the school magazine. At the end of the war Feinstein's sense of childhood security was shattered by the revelations of the Nazi extermination camps. She notes "In that year I became Jewish for the first time".[3]

Feinstein excelled at school work from this point. She was educated at Newnham College, University of Cambridge. After Cambridge she read for the bar, worked at Hockerill Training College, then as a university lecturer at the University of Essex (1967–70), appointed by Donald Davie.[4]

Feinstein married and had three sons. As she started writing again she "came to life again", keeping journals, enjoying the process of reading and writing poetry, composing pieces to help her make sense of experience.[5] She comments that she wanted "plain propositions, lines that came singing out of poems with a perfection of phrasing like lines of music".[5] She was inspired by the poetry of Marina Tsvetayeva and to translate some of her poetry. These were published by Oxford University Press and Penguin Books in 1971. She received three translation awards from the Arts Council. Her first novel was written under Tsvetayeva's influence.[5]

Since 1980, when she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, she has lived as a full-time writer. In 1990 she received a Cholmondeley Award for Poetry and was given an Honorary D.Litt. by the University of Leicester.[1] "Alive to her family origins in the Russian-Jewish diaspora, she developed a close affinity with the Russian poets of this and the last century."[4] She visited Russia on occasions to research her books and visit friends which included Yevgeny Yevtushenko.[6] She has written fourteen novels, many radio plays, television dramas and five biographies, including A Captive Lion: the Life of Marina Tsvetaeva (1987) and Pushkin (1998). Ted Hughes: The Life of a Poet (2001) was shortlisted for the biennial Marsh Biography Prize.[7] Her biography of Anna Akhmatova, Anna of all the Russias, was published in 2005 and translated into 12 European languages including Russian.[8]

Feinstein's poetry has been influenced by Black Mountain poets, as well as Objectivists. Charles Olson sent her his 'famous letter defining breath 'prosody'.[4] Feinstein has travelled extensively, to read her work at festivals abroad, and as Writer in Residence for the British Council, first in Singapore, and then in Tromsø, Norway. She was a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow at Bellagio in 1998. Her poems have been widely anthologised. Her Collected Poems and Translations (2002) was a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. She was appointed to the Council of the Royal Society of Literature in 2007. She has served as a judge for the Gregory Awards, the Independent Foreign Fiction Award, the Costa Poetry Prize and the Rossica Award for Literature translated from Russian, and in 1995 was chairman of the judges for the T. S. Eliot Prize.[9] Feinstein participated in the 22nd Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in November 2010 and continues to give readings in various countries.[10]

Books[edit]

  • Bessie Smith: Lives of Modern Women Series Penguin/Viking
  • A Captive Lion: The Life of Marina Tsvetayeva Hutchinson, 1987
  • Lawrence's Women HarperCollins, London, 1993;
  • Lawrence and The Women, New York, 1993
  • Pushkin Weidenfeld & Nicholson; Ecco, U.S, 1998
  • The Russian Jerusalem
  • Ted Hughes - The Life of a Poet Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2001
  • Anna of all the Russias: A Life of Anna Akhmatova: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005; Knopf, 2006

Poetry collections[edit]

  • Cities (Carcanet Press, June 2010)
  • Bride Of Ice: New Selected Poems of Marina Tsvetayeva (Carcanet Press, 2009)
  • Talking to the Dead (Carcanet Press, 2007)
  • Collected Poems and Translations (Carcanet Press, 2002)
  • Gold (Carcanet Press, 2000)
  • After Pushkin (edited by Elaine Feinstein) (Folio Society & Carcanet Press, 1999)
  • Daylight (Carcanet Press, 1997)
  • Selected Poems (Carcanet Press, 1994)
  • City Music, Hutchinson, 1990
  • Badlands, Hutchinson, 1987
  • The Feast of Eurydice, Faber & Faber/ Next Editions, 1980
  • Some Unease and Angels, Hutchinson; 1977, reprinted, 1981
  • Selected Poems, University Center, Michigan, Green River Press, 1977
  • Three Russian Poets: Margarita Aliger, Yunna Morits, Bella Akhmadulina, Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1976
  • The Celebrants and Other Poems, Hutchinson, 1973
  • At the Edge, Sceptre Press, 1972
  • The Magic Apple Tree, London, Hutchinson, 1971
  • In a Green Eye, London, Goliard Press, 1966
  • The Selected Poems of Marina Tsvetayeva, Oxford University Press, 1961. Second edition, 1971. Third edition, Hutchinson, 1987

Novels[edit]

  • The Circle London, Hutchinson (Penguin 1973)
  • The Amberstone Exit, London, Hutchinson, (Penguin 1974); translated into Hebrew (Keter 1984)
  • The Glass Alembic, as The Crystal Garden London, Hutchinson, (Penguin 1978); New York, Dutton, 1974
  • Children of the Rose, London, Hutchinson; (Penguin 1976); translated into Hebrew, 1987
  • The Ecstasy of Dr Miriam Garner, London, Hutchinson
  • The Shadow Master, London, Hutchinson, 1978; New York, Simon & Schuster, 1979
  • The Survivors, London, Hutchinson; New York, 1991
  • The Border, London, Hutchinson; New York, 1985
  • Mother's Girl, London, Hutchinson; shortlisted for 1990 Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize
  • All You Need, London, Hutchinson; New York, 1991
  • Loving Brecht, London, Hutchinson
  • Dreamers, London, Macmillan
  • Lady Chatterley's Confession, London, Macmillan, 1995
  • Dark Inheritance, London, Women's Press
  • The Russian Jerusalem, Manchester,

Radio plays[edit]

  • 1980: Echoes
  • 1981: A Late Spring
  • 1983: A Day Off
  • 1985: Marina Tsvetayeva: A Life
  • 1987: If I Ever Get On My Feet Again
  • 1990: The Man in Her Life
  • 1993: Foreign Girls, a trilogy
  • 1994: A Winter Meeting
  • Lawrence's Women in Love (four-part adaptation)
  • 1996: Adaptation of novel, Lady Chatterley's Confession Book at Bedtime

Short story collections[edit]

  • Matters of Chance, London, Covent Garden Press
  • The Silent Areas, London, Hutchinson

Prizes and awards[edit]

  • 1970: Arts Council Grant/Award for Translation
  • 1971: Betty Miller Prize
  • 1979: Arts Council Grant/Award for Translation
  • 1981: Arts Council Grant/Award for Translation
  • 1981: Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
  • 1990: Cholmondeley Award
  • 1992: Society of Authors Travel Award
  • 2004: Arts Council Award

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b British Council Contemporary Writers - Elaine Feinstein
  2. ^ Carcanet profile
  3. ^ a b Couzyn (1985), p. 114
  4. ^ a b c Schmidt, Michael. Lives of the Poets. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007; p. 856.
  5. ^ a b c Couzyn (1985) p115
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Interview with Elaine Feinstein in The Times
  8. ^ Feinstein biography
  9. ^ Carcanet Press - Elaine Feinstein
  10. ^ A podcast of her interview with Robert Seatter is available at The Poetry Trust.

Further reading[edit]

  • Couzyn, Jeni. Contemporary Women Poets. Bloodaxe, 1985
  • Davie, Donald. Under Briggflatts: History of Poetry in Britain 1960-80. Carcanet Press, 1989
  • Lassner, Phyllis. Anglo-Jewish Women Writing the Holocaust: Displaced Witnesses, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010
  • Lawson, Peter. Anglo-Jewish Poetry from Isaac Rosenberg to Elaine Feinstein. Vallentine Mitchell & Co
  • Schmidt, Michael. Lives of the Poets, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007

External links[edit]