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Lavinia Greenlaw (born 30 July 1962)[1] is an English poet and novelist. She won the Prix du Premier Roman with her first novel and her poetry has been shortlisted for awards that include the T. S. Eliot Prize, Forward Prize and Whitbread Poetry Prize. Her 2014 Costa Poetry Award was for A Double Sorrow: A Version of Troilus and Criseyde.[2] Greenlaw currently holds the post of Professor of Creative Writing (Poetry) at Royal Holloway, University of London.[3]

Lavinia Greenlaw
Meeting with writers from the UK in All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature.
Meeting with writers from the UK in All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature.
Born (1962-07-30) 30 July 1962 (age 57)
London, UK
EducationKingston Polytechnic; London College of Printing; Courtauld Institute
GenresPoetry; novel
Notable awardsForward Prize, 1997;
Prix du Premier Roman, 2001;
Ted Hughes Award, 2011


Meeting with writers from the UK in All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature. Glyn Maxwell, Denis Beznosov, Lavinia Greenlaw, Jay Bernard.

Lavinia Greenlaw was born in London into a medical and scientific family,[4] and is one of two sisters and two brothers.[5] When she was aged 11 the family moved from London to an Essex village, where they lived for seven years.[6][5] This period Greenlaw has described as "an interim time", with "memories of time being arrested, nothing much happening."

She went on to 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 been employed as an editor at Imperial College of Science and Technology (1985–86) and with the publishers Allison and Busby[7][8] (1986–87), and subsequently with Earthscan (1988–90).[9] She also worked as an arts administrator for Southbank Centre (1990–91) and the London Arts Board (1991–94).

Her career as a freelance artist, critic and radio broadcaster began in 1994.[10] She became the first artist-in-residence at the Science Museum (1994–95),[11] and has since held residences at the Royal Festival Hall, at a solicitors' firm in London (1997–98),[7][9] and at the Royal Society of Medicine (2004).[12] In 2013 she was awarded an Engagement Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust.[13]

Her sound work Audio Obscura, was commissioned from her in 2011 by Artangel and Manchester International Festival,[14] and took place at Manchester's Piccadilly Station in July 2011 and at London's St Pancras International Station in September and October 2011. Audio Obscura won the 2011 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry,[15], the judges describing it as "groundbreaking".[16]

Greenlaw has taught at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She served as professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia from 2007 to 2013,[11] and as a visiting professor at King's College London (2015–16) and at Freie Universität Berlin (2017). She currently holds the post of Professor of Creative Writing (Poetry) at Royal Holloway, University of London.[14][3]

After judging the 2010 Manchester Poetry Prize, she chaired in 2014 the judging panel for the inaugural Folio Prize.[17][18] She is a member of the Council of the Royal Society of Literature and a former Chair of the Poetry Society.[11]

Greenlaw has lived in London for most of her life.[10][14][19]


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).[14] Publications for which she has written include the London Review of Books, The Guardian and The New Yorker, among others.

Her work is informed by her interest in science and scientific enquiry, and by themes of displacement, loss and belonging.[20][21] 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".[22]

"She has written and adapted several dramas for radio, including Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day, Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, and a series on malaria called Five Fever Tales. She has made documentaries about Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Bishop and several programmes about light, including trips to the Arctic midsummer and midwinter, the Baltic, the darkest place in England, light in London, and the solstices and equinoxes."[23]

Awards and recognitionEdit

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.[14]

In 1994 she was also chosen as one of the 20 New Generation Poets.[24]

In 1997 she won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem for "A World Where News Travelled Slowly", the title poem from her second major collection.[25]

For her 2001 first novel, Mary George of Allnorthover, she won the French Prix du Premier Roman.[26]

Greenlaw's 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.[27]

Selected worksEdit

  • The Cost of Getting Lost in Space (poetry), Turret Books, 1991, ISBN 978-0854690916
  • Love from a Foreign City (poetry), Slow Dancer Press, 1992, ISBN 978-1-871033-18-2
  • Night Photograph (poetry; shortlisted for Whitbread and Forward Poetry Prizes), Faber and Faber, 1993, ISBN 978-0-571-16894-1
  • A World Where News Travelled Slowly (poetry), Faber, 1997, ISBN 978-0571326358
  • Mary George of Allnorthover (novel; Prix du Premier Roman Etranger), Flamingo, 9 July 2001, ISBN 978-0-618-09523-0
  • Minsk (poetry; shortlisted for T. S. Eliot, Forward and Whitbread Poetry Prizes), Faber, 2003, ISBN 978-0-571-22271-1
  • Thoughts of a Night Sea (photographs by Garry Fabian Miller), Merrell, 2003, ISBN 978-1858942223
  • An Irresponsible Age (novel), Fourth Estate, 2006, ISBN 978-0-00-715629-0
  • The Importance of Music to Girls (non-fiction), Faber, 2007, ISBN 978-0-375-17454-4
  • The Casual Perfect (poetry), Faber, 2011, ISBN 978-0-571-27816-9
  • Questions of Travel: William Morris in Iceland (non-fiction), Notting Hill Editions, 2011, ISBN 978-190790318-2.
  • A Double Sorrow: Troilus and Criseyde (poetry), Faber, 2014, ISBN 978-0-571-28454-2.
  • In the City of Love's Sleep (novel), Faber, 2018, ISBN 9780571337620
  • The Built Moment (poetry), Faber, 2019, ISBN 978-0-571-347100



Greenlaw appeared as a "talking head" on the BBC documentaries Top of the Pops: The Story of 1976[28] (2011) and The Joy of the Single[29] (2012).


  1. ^ "Ms Lavinia Greenlaw", Debrett's.
  2. ^ "A Double Sorrow: A Version of Troilus and Criseyde (Costa Poetry Award Shortlist)", Dundee University Review of the Arts. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Lavinia Greenlaw appointed Chair of Creative Writing", Royal Holloway, University of London, 31 May 2017.
  4. ^ "Poet Lavinia Greenlaw To Read at Library of Congress December 23, 1997". The Library of Congress. 23 December 1997. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
  5. ^ a b Marianne Brace, "Lavinia Greenlaw: Testament of middle youth", The Independent, 6 January 2006.
  6. ^ Adam Newey "Poetry – Essex Girl", New Statesman, 13 October 2003.
  7. ^ a b Biography at The International Literary Quarterly.
  8. ^ Mohit K. Ray (ed.), The Atlantic Companion to Literature in English, New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 2007, pp. 221–222.
  9. ^ a b "Greenlaw, Lavinia (Elaine)",
  10. ^ a b "Lavinia Greenlaw Bio". Archived from the original on 5 February 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
  11. ^ a b c "Lavinia Greenlaw", British Council, Literature.
  12. ^ "Off the Map | Lavinia Greenlaw", Haus für Poesie.
  13. ^ "Wellcome Trust awards three new Engagement Fellowships", Wellcome Trust, 3 September 2013.
  14. ^ a b c d e "Biography", Lavinia Greenlaw website.
  15. ^ Alison Flood, "Lavinia Greenlaw wins Ted Hughes award 2011 for new work in poetry", The Guardian, 30 March 2012.
  16. ^ Kaite O'Reilly: "Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2011: Lavinia Greenlaw", 31 March 2012.
  17. ^ Mark Brown, "Lavinia Greenlaw to chair judging panel for Folio prize", The Guardian, 16 July 2013.
  18. ^ Mark Brown, "Folio Prize announces inaugural shortlist of eight books", The Guardian, 10 February 2014.
  19. ^ "Goldsmiths College > Department of English & Comparative Literature". Retrieved 14 June 2007.
  20. ^ "Lavinia Greenlaw – Poetry Archive". Retrieved 14 June 2007.
  21. ^ Allardice, Lisa (19 March 2001). "A girl in my head". New Statesman. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
  22. ^ "Books", Lavinia Greenlaw website.
  23. ^ Author's website [1].
  24. ^ Raphael Costambeys-Kempczynsi, "'The world is round': mystification and the poetry of Lavinia Greenlaw", E-rea, 6.1, 2008.
  25. ^ "Forward Alumni", Forward Arts Foundation.
  26. ^ "Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog – film: Lavinia Greenlaw Profile". Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
  27. ^ "Front Row's interview with Lavinia Greenlaw", BBC Radio 4, 27 September 2013.
  28. ^ Top of the Pops: The Story of 1976, BBC Four, 1 April 2011.
  29. ^ The Joy of the Single, BBC Four, 26 November 2012.

External linksEdit