© Image by Tim Bishop

Elaine Feinstein

(b. 1930)

"People do seem to need poetry; it makes our ordinary life feel richer." - Elaine Feinstein

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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Select bibliography

  • In a Green Eye, London, Goliard Press, 1966 - out of print
  • Selected Poems of John Clare (editor), London, University Tutorial Press, 1968 - out of print
  • The Magic Apple Tree, London, Hutchinson, 1971 - out of print
  • The Selected Poems of Marina Tsvetayeva (translator), London, Oxford University Press, 1971
  • At the Edge, Rushden, Sceptre Press, 1972 - out of print
  • The Celebrants and Other Poems, Hutchinson, 1973
  • Three Russian Poets (translator), Manchester, Carcanet, 1976 - out of print
  • Some Unease and Angels, Hutchinson, 1977, 1981 - out of print
  • Selected Poems, University Centre, Michigan, Green River Press, 1977 - out of print
  • The Feast of Euridice, London, Faber & Faber/Next Editions, 1980
  • The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Women Poets ed. Jeni Couzyn (contributor), Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bloodaxe Books, 1985
  • Badlands, Hutchinson, 1987 - out of print
  • A Captive Lion: The Life of Marina Tsvetayeva, Hutchinson, 1987 - out of print
  • P.E.N. New Poetry (editor), London, Quartet Books, 1988 - out of print
  • City Music, Hutchinson, 1990
  • Sixty Women Poets, ed. Linda France (contributor), Bloodaxe Books, 1993
  • Lawrence's Women, London, HarperCollins, 1993 (as Lawrence and the Women, New York, HarperCollins, 1993) - out of print
  • Selected Poems, Carcanet, 1994
  • Daylight, Carcanet, 1997
  • Pushkin, London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, and USA, Ecco, 1998
  • Gold, Carcanet, 2000
  • Ted Hughes: The Life of a Poet, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2001
  • Collected Poems and Translations, Carcanet, 2002
  • Anna of All the Russias: The Life of Anna Akhmatova, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 2005 and New York, 2006
  • Elaine Feinstein Reading from her poems, CD, The Poetry Archive, 2005
  • Talking to the Dead, Carcanet 2007
  • The Russian Jerusalem, Carcanet 2008
  • Cities, Carcanet, 2010
Elaine Feinstein (b.1930) is from Bootle, Lancashire and was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge. She has worked as an editor, a university lecturer and a journalist. From 1976 she has lived on her writing. Feinstein's early poetry bears the influence of modernists such as Pound, but it wasn't until she began translating the great Russian poet, Marina Tsvataeva, that she found her own voice. Much of her material is drawn from personal experience, though set within the wider cultural contexts of her Jewish inheritance, feminism and European history. These influences can be detected throughout her work which, as well as her ten collections of poetry, also includes fourteen novels, several acclaimed biographies, short stories and plays for radio and television. She has received a Cholmondeley Award, three Arts Council Awards and was made a Fellow of the Royal Literary Society in 1981. In 1990 she received an honorary Doctorate from the University of Leicester for services to literature.

Feinstein's poems allow us intimate access to the fears and consolations of family life, particularly in her moving elegies to her parents and the stringent yet tender poems about her long and "bumpy" marriage. Feinstein has said "People have always been the centre of my concerns," and this statement is borne out in work that, whilst revealing the ambivalence of our relations with others, also records our rare moments of grace which flower unexpectedly like the cactus' "blare of red" in 'June'. She is aware that such moments are a reprieve or, as she puts it in 'Getting Older', "every day won from such/darkness is a celebration." That darkness is ever-present, be it personal loss or the long shadow of the Holocaust, but it's also what gives her poems their urgency, as it does for the dying owner of the laundrette in 'Urban Lyric' who "is made alert to the day's beauty,/as if her terror had wakened poetry."

Feinstein's voice moves slowly through the emotional complexities of her poems, reflecting their measured pace, the discipline of their line breaks, and the pauses she uses on the page to allow time for her words to sink in. The cumulative effect is very moving and intimate - as if she is taking us into her confidence.

Her recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 17 September 2002 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.


1970 Arts Council Grant/Award for Translation

1971 Daisy Miller Prize

1979 Arts Council Grant/Award for Translation

1981 Arts Council Grant/Award for Translation

1990 Cholmondeley Award

1997 Poetry Book Society Recommendation, Daylight

2003 Poetry Book Society Special Commendation, Collected Poems and Translations

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