Elaine Feinstein Biography

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

Born in Bootle, Liverpool, Feinstein grew up in Leicester. 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. Feinstein was sent to Wyggeston Grammar School 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".

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.

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.

She comments that she wanted "plain propositions, lines that came singing out of poems with a perfection of phrasing like lines of music". She was inspired by the poetry of Marina Tsvetayeva and to her translations (1971) were published by Oxford University Press and Penguin, and she received three translation awards from the Arts Council. Her first novel was written under Tsvetayeva's influence.

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 from the University of Leicester. "Alive to her family origins in the Russian-Jewish daspora, she developed a close affinity with the Russian poets of this and the last century." She visited Russia on occasions to research her books and visit friends which included Yvegeny Yevtushenko. 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. Her biography of Anna Akhmatova, Anna of all the Russias, was published in 2005 and translated into most European languages including Russian.

Feinstein's poetry is influenced by Black Mountain poets, as well as Objectivists. Charles Olson sent her his 'famous letter defining breath 'prosody'. Feinstein has travelled extensively, to read her work at festivals across the world, 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. Feinstein participated in the 22nd Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in November 2010 and continues to give readings across the world.

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