Lavinia Greenlaw was born in London, where she has lived for most of her life. Her teenage years were spent in a village in Essex. She has published five collections of poetry with Faber & Faber including Minsk (2003), which was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot, Forward and Whitbread Poetry Prizes, and The Casual Perfect (2011). A Double Sorrow: Troilus and Criseyde (2014) was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award and was published in the US by Norton in September 2015.
Her first novel, Mary George of Allnorthover, was published in 2001 and appeared in the Netherlands, the United States, Germany and France, where it won the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger. A second novel, An Irresponsible Age, appeared in 2006, followed by two non-fiction works: The Importance of Music to Girls (2007) and Questions of Travel: William Morris in Iceland (2011). She has published and broadcast short stories, including We Are Watching Something Terrible Happening, which was shortlisted for the 2013 National Short Story Award.
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. In 2013, she was one of the first two artists to receive a two-year Wellcome Engagement Fellowship. She has an MA in Seventeenth-Century Netherlandish Art from the Courtauld Institute and was awarded a three-year NESTA fellowship in 2001 in order to pursue her interest in vision, travel and perception. Other awards she has received include an Eric Gregory Award (1990), an Arts Council Writers’ Award (1995), Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 1997 (for ‘A World Where News Travelled Slowly’), a Cholmondeley Award and a Society of Authors Travelling Scholarship.
She was the first artist-in-residence at the Science Museum and has also held residencies at the Royal Festival Hall and the Royal Society of Medicine. She is on the Council of the Royal Society of Literature, former Chair of the Poetry Society, and was chair of judges for the inaugural Folio Prize. She is an artistic advisor to 14-18 Now. She taught at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and was Professor of Poetry at UEA from 2007 to 2013. She is Visiting Professor in Creative Writing at King’s College London 2015-16.
She also writes about music, visual perception and art. Commissions she has undertaken include pieces on Elizabeth Price for Frieze, on a total solar eclipse for The New Yorker, Titian for the National Gallery, Eva Hesse for The Guardian, Constable for Tate Britain, Christine Borland for Bookworks, and Garry Fabian Miller for the V&A, as well as a poem to mark the centenary of the Theory of Relativity for the Science Museum.
Her work for music includes the libretto for Peter Pan (Staatsoper Stuttgart/Komische Oper Berlin/Welsh National Opera and Royal Opera House 2015-16), composer Richard Ayres. She has also written song texts including the cycle Slow passage, low prospect (composer: Richard Baker, 2004 Aldeburgh Festival).
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 abou tEmily 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.