Dr Vidyan Ravinthiran

Dr Vidyan Ravinthiran

Department of English Literature
Senior Lecturer in North American Literature

I write verse, academic criticism, and literary journalism, in the hope that complex ideas can be communicated in a variety of lively forms: ranging from the Long Eighteenth Century to the present day, I’ve a strong interest in the formal qualities of both verse and prose, and how they relate to historical fact and creative cognition. One of my next monographs concerns ‘spontaneity and form’ in nineteenth and twentieth-century English, US and Indian prose; the other, provisionally titled Poetry and Other People, considers issues of race, class, nationality and gender, through close readings beginning, in each case, with the actual verbal texture of a particular poem. My own second book of verse, The Million-Petalled Flower of Being Here, is out from Bloodaxe in June.

With Sarah Howe and Dai George, I co-edit the online magazine Prac Crit, which combines interviews with close readings; alongside Sandeep Parmar, I have worked (I’ve been on hiatus) as a selector for the Poetry Book Society. Here's ‘Ginnel’, which I wrote and performed on behalf of Radio Leeds for National Poetry Day; my verse can also be read on the Guardian website, in The Nation, and in Poetry.

I am particularly interested in talking outside my own socio-political ‘bubble’, with multiple communities (I also review fiction for The Telegraph), and have worked with the Prince’s Trust, the British Council, and New Writing North, as well as schools in West Yorkshire, the North-East, and now the Birmingham area. If you’d like to plan a poetry or creative-writing masterclass at your school, please get in touch!

As Equality and Diversity lead for EDACS, I arrange a series of events, and am happy to speak with students and staff with any concerns; more information can be found on the intranet page. I teach primarily on the first-year Poetry module, and am always happy to hear from prospective PhD students in my field.


  • DPhil (Oxon)
  • MPhil (Cam)
  • BA (Oxon)


I was born in Leeds – my parents are Tamils, from Sri Lanka – and studied at Oxford and Cambridge before taking up the Keasbey Research Fellowship at Selwyn College. I then taught at Durham University for three years before joining Birmingham.


Presently, I teach on Year 1 Poetry and Discovering American Literature.


My first book of poems, Grun-tu-molani (Bloodaxe, 2014), was shortlisted for a number of prizes, and poems towards my next, The Million-Petalled Flower of Being Here, won a Northern Writers Award in 2017. Elizabeth Bishop’s Prosaic (Bucknell UP, 2015), my study of that wonderfully gifted US poet, won both the University English First Book Prize and the Warren-Brooks Award for Outstanding Literary Criticism. I’ve written over fifty pieces of literary journalism (selected publications are listed below), and am the winner of Poetry’s Editors’ Prize for Reviewing.

I am represented as an author of fiction by The Wylie Agency.



  • The Million-Petalled Flower of Being Here (VERSE – forthcoming from Bloodaxe, 2019); winner of a Northern Writers Award, and a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.
  • Selected Poetry and Prose of Srinivas Rayaprol, edited with Graziano Krätli (forthcoming from Carcanet, 2019).
  • Selected Poetry of Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, edited (forthcoming from NYRB Books, 2019).
  • Elizabeth Bishop’s Prosaic (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2015 / paperback release, July 2017); winner of the University English Prize, as well as the Warren-Brooks Award for Literary Criticism.
  • Grun-tu-molani (VERSE – Tarset: Bloodaxe, 2014); shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for First Full Collection, and the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize.


  • ‘Prose’, in Elizabeth Bishop in Context, ed. Jonathan Ellis and Angus Cleghorn (contracted to CUP, forthcoming 2020).
  •  ‘ “Manuelzinho”, Brazil and identity politics’, in Reading Elizabeth Bishop: An Edinburgh Companion, ed. Jonathan Ellis (contracted to Edinburgh UP, forthcoming 2019).
  •  ‘Nabokov and the Privilege of Style’, in Modernism and Close Reading, ed. David James (contracted to OUP, forthcoming 2019).
  • ‘Collapsing Literature into Politics: Adrienne Rich’, The Dark Horse 40 (Winter-Spring 2019): 90-99.
  • ‘Trying to Become Winged’ (Galway Kinnell), Poetry, Vol. 213, No. 1 (October 2018): 71-82.
  • ‘T.S. Eliot’s Prose (Poetry)’, in British Prose Poetry: The Poems Without Lines, ed. Jane Monson (Cham: Palgrave, 2018): 133-47.
  • ‘What is good?’ (Czeslaw Milosz), The Cambridge Quarterly, Vol. 47, Issue 2, (June 2018): 168–200.
  • ‘”Dream” makes a giddy sound: 100 years of Gwendolyn Brooks’, The Poetry Review 107:2 (Summer 2017): 82-90.
  • ‘The Dread Ear’, review-essay of Burt and Mikics (eds.), The Art of the Sonnet; and Ben Mazer (ed.), Selected Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman in Essays in Criticism (2010) 60 (4): 375-83.
  • The “Liquid Texture” of the Elgin Marbles: Hazlitt, Reynolds, and the Miltonic Sublime’, The Hazlitt Review, Vol. 2, 2009: 21-32.
  • ‘The nature of Englishness: the hybrid poetics of Ted Hughes’, in Ted Hughes, Nature and Culture, ed. Neil Roberts, Mark Wormald and Terry Gifford (Cham: Palgrave, 2018): 107-23.
  • ‘The things of earth are not objects’ (A.R. Ammons), PN Review 241, Vol. 44, No. 5 (May-June 2018): 31-4.
  •  ‘Shadows Hard As Board’ (Thom Gunn), Poetry, Vol. 211, No. 6 (March 2018): 597-608.
  • ‘“An undependable but sometimes marvelous thing”: Elizabeth Bishop, communication, and other people’, PN Review 238, Vol. 44, No. 2 (November-December 2017): 26-30.
  • ‘The Lonely Dream’ (Rae Armantrout), Poetry, Vol. 209, No. 5 (February 2017): 475-87.
  • ‘Race, Style, and the Soul of Saul Bellow’s Prose’, Essays in Criticism (2016) 66 (4): 488-517.
  • ‘Your Thorns Are the Best Part of You’ (Marianne Moore, Stevie Smith), Poetry, Vol. 209, No. 1 (October 2016): 83-103.
  • ‘Knowing and Unknowing’ (the Sri Lankan civil war), The Caravan (January 2016): 92-8.
  • ‘All the Animals in My Poems Go into the Ark’ (Silkin, Langley, Sisson), Poetry, Vol. 207, No. 4 (January 2016): 409-25.
  • ‘You Can’t Close Your Eyes For A Sec’ (A.K. Mehrotra), The Caravan (March 2015): 69-74.
  • ‘Stair Steps’ (Ana Blandiana), Edinburgh Review 140 (2015): 117-27.
  • ‘Arun Kolatkar’s Description of India’, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature (2014) 49 (3): 359-77.
  • ‘How James Wright Wasted His Life’, Literary Imagination (2014) 16 (1): 95-116.
  • ‘The Blank Verse Moo of Wallace Stevens’, Thinking Verse (2013) 3: 108-30.
  • ‘The Spontaneity of Hopkins’s Journal Prose’, The Review of English Studies (2013) 64 (267): 838-56.
  • ‘Poet and Critic’ (Ted Hughes), PN Review 210, Vol. 39, No. 4 (March-April 2013): 42-6.
  • ‘Kolatkar’s Spontaneity’, in Poetry and Voice: A Book of Essays, ed. Stephanie Norgate and Ellie Piddington (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2012): 89-103.
  • ‘Auden and Bishop: Another Look at “At The Fishhouses” ’, Notes and Queries, Vol. 58, No. 5 (December 2011): 597-603.
  • ‘Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker’PN Review 200, Vol. 37, No. 6 (June-July 2011): 49-52.
  • ‘Prose-rhythm and the aesthetic claim: a new reading of Elizabeth Bishop’s “Santarém” ’, US Studies Online, Issue 18, Spring 2011.
  • ‘Dante and Shelley’s terza rima’, Essays in Criticism (2011) 61 (2): 155-72.

I’m also writing an essay on Bishop and punctuation for an essay collection under consideration by CUP; essays on A.K. Ramanujan, Mir Taqi Mir, and verse-sound are forthcoming in (respectively) The Poetry Review, MPT, and Poetry.

Selected shorter publications:

  • ‘A return to the brilliance of The Rotters Club’, review of Jonathan Coe’s Middle England, in The Telegraph (17 January 2019), online at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/middle-england-jonathan-coe-marks-return-brilliance-rotters/.
  • ‘In defence of a grumpy genius’, review of Zachary Leader’s biography (2nd vol.) of Saul Bellow, in The Telegraph (Review, 24 November 2018): 24-5.
  • ‘How to annihilate your waking hours’, review of Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, in The Telegraph (Review, 28 July 2018): 26-7.
  • ‘Out of your comfort zone’, review of Lionel Shriver’s Property, in The Telegraph (Review, 12 May 2018): 24.
  • ‘Not yet done’, review of John Donne and Contemporary Poetry: Essays and Poems, ed. Judith Herz, in The Times Literary Supplement, 25 May 2018: 35.
  • ‘Out of your comfort zone’, review of Lionel Shriver’s Property, in The Telegraph (Review, 12 May 2018): 24.
  • ‘Shimmery Alien Sympathies’, review of Ahren Warner and Steph Burt in The Poetry Review 108:1 (Spring 2018): 115-9.
  • ‘Alan knew the style: local vicar’, review of James Wood’s Upstate, in The Telegraph (Review, 28 April 2018): 25.
  • ‘Sex! Drugs! Donkey Kong!’, review of Jarett Kobek’s The Future Won’t Be Long, in The Telegraph (Review, 2 December 2017): 25.
  • ‘How Do You Write About Sex?’, review of Mary Gaitskill’s Don’t Cry, in The Telegraph (Review, 26 August 2017): 26-7.
  • ‘Poetry’s Last Ruggedness’, in The Poetry Review 106:3 (Autumn 2016): 54-9.
  • ‘No Apologies’, review of Don Paterson, A.B. Jackson and Kate Bingham in Poetry London, Spring 2016 / No. 83: 40-3.
  • ‘To Look Up’ (the OED; Sri Lanka), in PN Review 224, Vol. 41, No. 6 (July-August 2015): 18-9.
  • ‘You Know It’s Coming’, review of Paul Muldoon’s One Thousand Things Worth Knowing in Poetry London, Summer 2015 / No. 81: 33-4.
  • ‘In Spring’ (on erotic verse), in Prac Crit 3 (March 2015).
  • ‘Gamini Salgado Revisited’, in PN Review 220, Vol. 41, No. 2 (November-December 2014): 8-9.
  • ‘The Poet on His Work: Jackie Chan’ and ‘What is prose?’ in The Reader, No. 54, Autumn 2014: 22-30.
  • ‘Tests of worth’, review of Craig Raine’s More Dynamite and Dennis O’Driscoll’s The Outnumbered Poet in The Times Literary Supplement, 12 September 2014: 12-3.
  • Review-essay of R.K. Narayan’s translation of The Mahabharata in Modern Poetry in Translation, No. 2, 2014: 101-6.
  • ‘Something to do with truth’, review of Henry Weinfield’s The Blank-Verse Tradition from Milton to Stevens and Charles Altieri’s Wallace Stevens and the Demands of Modernity in The Times Literary Supplement, 11 July 2014: 21.
  • ‘Episodes of Colour’, review of August Kleinzahler, Stanley Moss and Karen Solie in Poetry London, Summer 2014 / No. 78: 39-41.
  • ‘Varied virtue’, review of Terry Eagleton’s How to Read Literature in The Times Literary Supplement, 14 March 2014: 30.
  • ‘On Paying Attention’, in Oxford Poetry, XIV.3: 70-4.
  • Review-essay of Tim Kendall’s The Art of Robert Frost in Critical Quarterly (2014) 55 (4): 117-21.
  • ‘All Too Quotable’, review of Frederick Seidel’s Nice Weather in PN Review 213, Vol. 40, No. 1 (September-October 2013): 65-6.
  • ‘Grim Brilliance’, review of André Naffis-Sahely and Julian Stannard (eds.), The Palm Beach Effect: Reflections on Michael Hofmann in PN Review 212, Vol. 39, No. 6 (July-August 2013): 74-5.
  • ‘Syntax Anxiety’, review of Jamie McKendrick, James Lasdun and Stephanie Norgate in Poetry London, Summer 2013 / No. 75: 25-7.
  • ‘A cool world’, review of M.H. Abrams’s The Fourth Dimension of a Poem: and Other Essays in The Times Literary Supplement, 24 May 2013: 12.
  • ‘A spendthrift love’, review of John T. Irwin’s Hart Crane’s Poetry in The Times Literary Supplement, 7 December 2012: 11.
  • ‘Moving On’, review of Tom Paulin’s Love’s Bonfire in PN Review 207, Vol. 39, No. 1 (September-October 2012): 56-7.
  • Review of William May’s Stevie Smith and Authorship in Notes and Queries, Vol. 59, No. 4 (December 2012): 288-9.
  • ‘So Many Lost Gestures’, review of Arun Kolatkar’s Collected Poems in English in PN Review 204, Vol. 38, No. 4 (March-April 2012): 70-1.
  • ‘Somehow, you know’, review of Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One in The Times Literary Supplement, 9 December 2011: 8.

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