Biography of Lavinia Greenlaw
Lavinia Greenlaw (born 30 July 1962) is an English poet and novelist.
Greenlaw was born in London into a family of doctors and scientists, but in 1973 when she was eleven years old, her family moved from London to a village in Essex. 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 and for the publishers Allison and Busby and subsequently Earthscan. She also worked as an arts administrator for the London Arts Board and the South Bank Centre. In 1994 she embarked upon a career as a freelance artist, critic and radio broadcaster. She has been writer in residence at the Science Museum, reader in residence at the Royal Festival Hall, and poet in residence at a firm of solicitors in London.
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 lives in London and currently works as professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She was a judge for the 2010 Manchester Poetry Prize.
Lavinia Greenlaw Poems
1980, I was returned to the city exposed in black and white as the lights went on and on. A back-alley neon sign, the first I'd seen,
The Spirit of the Staircase
In our game of flight, half-way down was as near mid-air as it got: a point of no return we'd fling ourselves at over and over, riding pillows or trays. We were quick to smooth the edge of every step, grinding the carpet to glass on which we'd lose our grip. The new stairs were our new toy, the descent to an odd extension, four new rooms at flood level in a sunken garden — a wing dislocated from a hive. Young bees with soft stripes and borderless nights, we'd so far been squared away in a twin-set of bunkbeds, so tight-knit, my brother and I once woke up finishing a conversation begun in a dream. It had been the simplest exchange, one I'd give much to return to: the greetings of shadows unsurprised at having met beneath the trees and happy to set off again, alone, back into the dark.
A WORLD WHERE NEWS TRAVELLED SLOWLY
It could take from Monday to Thursday and three horses. The ink was unstable, the characters cramped, the paper tore where it creased. Stained with the leather and sweat of its journey, the envelope absorbed each climatic shift, as well as the salt and grease of the rider who handed it over with a four-day chance that by now things were different and while the head had to listen, the heart could wait. Semaphore was invented at a time of revolution; the judgement of swing in a vertical arm. News travelled letter by letter, along a chain of towers, each built within telescopic distance of the next. The clattering mechanics of the six-shutter telegraph still took three men with all their variables added to those of light and weather, to read, record and pass the message on. Now words are faster, smaller, harder ...we're almost talking in one another's arms. Coded and squeezed, what chance has my voice to reach your voice unaltered and to leave no trace? Nets tighten across the sky and the sea bed. When London made contact with New York, there were such fireworks, City Hall caught light. It could have burned to the ground.
The city is baked and blown by incontinent, sudden weather. The trees are luminous or racing. It changes, it is not something we can predict. The catch of pollen, ozone, exhaust in my throat is unbreathable, secret, and for this same reason, my tears are yellow and viscous, and cannot cool the shot capillaries of my eyes. You are waiting to fly. Even the airport has its airport gods. I pray they urge you return to your lover. A princess, it has been said, but one somewhat lacking in courage. Whatever. My teeth in your shoulder, my salt on your fingers, a hayseed in your heel...
AKHMATOVA IN LAMBERTVILLE
The revelations of ice, exactly: each leaf carries itself in glass, each stem is a fuse in a transparent flex, each blade, for once, truly metallic. Trees on the hill explode like fireworks for the minute the sun hits. Fields hover: bleached sheets in the afternoon, ghosts as the light goes. The landscape shivers but holds. Ice floes cruise the Delaware, force it under in unnatural silence; clarification I watch as I watch the road - nothing but the grind of the plough as it banks snow, drops salt and grit. By dark these are just settled hills, grains embedded in the new fall. We, too, make little impression walking back from town at midnight on bird's feet - duck's feet on the ramp where we inch and scrabble our way to the door, too numb to mind the slapstick. How did you cross those unlit, reinvented streets with your fear of traffic and your broken shoe? There are mornings when it drips and cracks. We pull glass bars from railings, chip at the car's shadow.
Those buried lidless eyes can see the infra-red heat of my blood. I feel the crack, the whisper as vertebrae ripple and curve. Days of absolute stillness. I sleep early and well. His rare violent hunger, a passion for the impossible. He will dislocate his jaw to hold it. My fingers trace the realignment as things fall back into place. Each season, a sloughed skin intensifies the colours that fuse with mineral delicacy at his throat. Flawless. Beautiful, simple, he will come between us. Last night you found his tooth on your pillow.
The End of Marriage
Night was and they swayed into it: a pair of scissors, of sails turning only into themselves more other than become. It is often five o'clock. Her husband has contracted not to speak of her and she has forgotten where to go. Where does everyone go?
The End of Marriage
Night was and they swayed into it: a pair of scissors, of sails turning only into themselves more other than become.
A dance between movement and space, between image and imperative. Each step, an arrival
Those buried lidless eyes can see
the infra-red heat of my blood.
I feel the crack, the whisper
as vertebrae ripple and curve.
Days of absolute stillness.
I sleep early and well.