Lavinia Greenlaw

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Lavinia Greenlaw (born 30 July 1962)[1] is an English poet and novelist. Her most recent work is A Double Sorrow: A Version of Troilus and Criseyde, which was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award in 2014.[2]


Greenlaw was born in London into a family of doctors and scientists,[3] but in 1973 when she was 11 years old, her family moved from London to a village in Essex.[4][5] She has described the seven years there as "an interim time", with "memories of time being arrested, nothing much happening." She read modern arts at Kingston Polytechnic, studied at the London College of Printing and has an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute. She has worked as an editor at Imperial College of Science and Technology (1985–86) and for the publishers Allison and Busby[6][7] (1986–87) and subsequently Earthscan (1988–90).[8] She also worked as an arts administrator for the Southbank Centre (1990–91) and the London Arts Board (1991–94).

In 1994 she embarked upon a career as a freelance artist, critic and radio broadcaster.[9] She was the first artist-in-residence at the Science Museum (1994–95),[10] and has also held residences at the Royal Festival Hall, at a firm of solicitors in London (1997–98),[6][8] and at the Royal Society of Medicine (2004).[11] In 2013 she was awarded an Engagement Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust.[12]

Her sound work, Audio Obscura, was commissioned in 2011 from Artangel and Manchester International Festival, and won the 2011 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry.[13][14]

She has taught at Goldsmiths College, University of London, was professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia from 2007 to 2013,[10] a visiting professor at King’s College London (2015–16) and the Freie Universität Berlin (2017), and currently holds the post of Professor of Creative Writing (Poetry) at Royal Holloway, University of London.[13]

She was a judge for the 2010 Manchester Poetry Prize. In 2014 she was chair of the judging panel for the inaugural Folio Prize.[15][16] She is on the Council of the Royal Society of Literature and is former Chair of the Poetry Society.[10]

She has lived in London for most of her life.[9][13][17]


Primarily a poet, Greenlaw has also written novels, short stories, plays and non-fiction. She has made documentaries for radio, and her work for music includes the libretto for Peter Pan (Staatsoper Stuttgart/Komische Oper Berlin/Welsh National Opera and Royal Opera House, 2015, composer Richard Ayres).[13] Publications for which she has written include the London Review of Books, The Guardian and The New Yorker, among others.

Her work is heavily informed by her interest in science and scientific enquiry, and by themes of displacement, loss and belonging.[18][19] Critics have noted that her poetry is remarkable in its precision, and that her best poems contain a complexity and elusiveness that lead them to "appreciate with each re-reading".[20]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Lavinia Greenlaw received an Eric Gregory Award in 1990, an Arts Council Writers' Award in 1995, a Cholmondeley Award and a Society of Authors Travelling Scholarship.[13] In 1994 she was also chosen as one of the 20 New Generation Poets.[21]

Her work has been shortlisted for a number of literary awards, including the Whitbread Book Award (now known as the Costa Book Awards) and the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry. Her short story "We Are Watching Something Terrible Happening" was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award 2013.[22]

She won the French Prix du Premier Roman[23] for her first novel, Mary George of Allnorthover, and, most notably, the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem for "A World Where News Travelled Slowly", the title poem from her second major collection.

Selected works[edit]



Greenlaw appeared as a "talking head" on the BBC documentaries Top of the Pops: The Story of 1976.[24] (2011) and The Joy of the Single.[25] (2012).


  1. ^ "Ms Lavinia Greenlaw", Debrett's.
  2. ^ Dundee University Review of the Arts Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Poet Lavinia Greenlaw To Read at Library of Congress December 23, 1997". The Library of Congress. 23 December 1997. Retrieved 14 June 2007. 
  4. ^ Adam Newey, "Poetry – Essex Girl", New Statesman, 13 October 2003.
  5. ^ Marianne Brace, "Lavinia Greenlaw: Testament of middle youth", The Independent, 6 January 2006.
  6. ^ a b Biography at The International Literary Quarterly.
  7. ^ Mohit K. Ray (ed.), The Atlantic Companion to Literature in English, New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 2007, pp. 221–222.
  8. ^ a b "Greenlaw, Lavinia (Elaine)",
  9. ^ a b "Lavinia Greenlaw Bio". Archived from the original on 5 February 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2007. 
  10. ^ a b c "Lavinia Greenlaw", British Council, Literature.
  11. ^ "Off the Map | Lavinia Greenlaw", Haus für Poesie.
  12. ^ "Wellcome Trust awards three new Engagement Fellowships", Wellcome Trust, 3 September 2013.
  13. ^ a b c d e "Biography", Lavinia Greenlaw website.
  14. ^ Alison Flood, "Lavinia Greenlaw wins Ted Hughes award 2011 for new work in poetry", The Guardian, 30 March 2012.
  15. ^ Mark Brown, "Lavinia Greenlaw to chair judging panel for Folio prize", The Guardian, 16 July 2013.
  16. ^ Mark Brown, "Folio Prize announces inaugural shortlist of eight books", The Guardian, 10 February 2014.
  17. ^ "Goldsmiths College > Department of English & Comparative Literature". Retrieved 14 June 2007. 
  18. ^ "Lavinia Greenlaw – Poetry Archive". Retrieved 14 June 2007. 
  19. ^ Allardice, Lisa (19 March 2001). "A girl in my head". New Statesman. Retrieved 14 June 2007. 
  20. ^ "Books", Lavinia Greenlaw website.
  21. ^ Raphael Costambeys-Kempczynsi, "'The world is round': mystification and the poetry of Lavinia Greenlaw", E-rea, 6.1, 2008.
  22. ^ "Front Row's interview with Lavinia Greenlaw", BBC Radio 4, 27 September 2013.
  23. ^ "Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog – film: Lavinia Greenlaw Profile". Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 14 June 2007. 
  24. ^ Top of the Pops: The Story of 1976, BBC Four, 1 April 2011.
  25. ^ The Joy of the Single, BBC Four, 26 November 2012.

External links[edit]