Helen Dunmore

Helen Dunmore (b. 1952) is an acclaimed poet and best-selling novelist whose work in both genres has won much praise and popularity. Born in Yorkshire, the second of four children, and with a large extended family, Dunmore grew up surrounded by stories, fairy tales, ballads – an early grounding that would prove influential.

She studied English at York University and then taught for two years in Finland. Her debut collection, The Apple Fall, was one of the first titles published by Bloodaxe Books. Her second, The Sea Skater, won the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award. Her fiction career began with short stories before her first novel was published in 1994: Zennor in Darkness, set during the First World War when D.H. Lawrence lived at Zennor in Cornwall, won the McKitterick Prize.

Since then Dunmore has become one of our most acclaimed literary figures, winning many prizes including the inaugural Orange Prize for Fiction and The Signal Poetry Award for children’s poetry. Her eight poetry collections for adults have been awarded the Poetry Book Society Choice and Recommendations, while Bestiary (Bloodaxe, 1997) was shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize and the title poem of The Malarkey (Bloodaxe, 2012) won the National Poetry Competition. She is a fellow of the Royal Society for Literature.

Her writing, in both prose and poetry, is known for its lyrical intensity which can be both delicate and piercing. Her language is sensual and exact, recreating scenes for the reader that lodge in your mind. Many of her poems have the mysterious, compressed quality of a short story. Her writing demonstrates more public concerns, too, in particular threats to the natural environment and a fascination for history – many of her novels are set in the past.