Denise Riley

Denise Riley (b 1948, Carlisle) is a philosopher and feminist theorist as well as an admired poet. She’s written eight works of nonfiction, including the influential ‘Am I That Name?’: Feminism and the Category of “Women” in History.

Riley can be seen as the UK’s best answer to the New York School poets, a movement whose riotous running together of art theory and philosophy with everyday speech and pop culture has been one of the dominant trends in poetry over the last half-century. From her first book, Marxism for Infants, through to her astonishingly varied and ambitious Mop Mop Georgette, she has successfully sought to make abstract intellectual questions vivid, pressing and personal.

In Say Something Back, Riley explores how our personal concerns – loss, cruelty, mortality – have implications for the way in which we, as a species, exist within the world. Central to the book is her elegy ‘A Part Song’ – winner of the 2012 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem – which was written after the death of her son. She says it was composed ‘in imagined solidarity with the endless others whose adult children have died, often in far worse circumstances.’

She is currently Professor of the History of Ideas and of Poetry at UEA. Her visiting positions have included A.D. White Professor at Cornell University in the US, Writer in Residence at the Tate Gallery in London, and Visiting Fellow at Birkbeck College in the University of London.

Forward Prizes History:

  • 2016 Forward Prizes for Best Collection, shortlisted for Say Something Back (Picador)
  • 2014 Forward Prizes for Best Single Poem, shortlisted for After La Rochefoucauld (Eggbox)
  • 2012 Forward Prizes for Best Single Poem, winner for A Part Song (London Review of Books)