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, The Casual Perfect (2011) and A Double Sorrow: Troilus and Criseyde (2014).
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).
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. 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 a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, former Chair of the Poetry Society, and Professor of Poetry at UEA from 2007 to 2013. She was recently one of the first two artists to receive a Wellcome Engagement Fellowship.
Commissions she has undertaken include writing about Titian for the National Gallery, 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 libretti for Peter Pan (Staatsoper Stuttgart/Komische Oper Berlin/Welsh National Opera 2013-15) and the chamber operas Hamelin (2003) and Minsk (Heilbronn 2013). 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 and Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, and has made documentaries on the Arctic, the Baltic, the idea of mountains, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, the darkest place in England, light in London, and the solstices and equinoxes. She has published essays on poetry and science, Bob Dylan and delay, and seventeenth-century wonder.