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Poet and author Helen Dunmore dies aged 64

Posted on 6 June 2017

Tributes have been paid to the poet and author Helen Dunmore who has died of cancer at the age of 64.

Picture Credit: Caroline Forbes

Born in Beverley, East Yorkshire in 1952, Dunmore studied English at the University of York in the early 1970s.

She was the author of 12 novels and 10 poetry collections.

Among her novels are A Spell of Winter (1995), a World War I gothic fiction that won the first Orange Prize, The Siege (2002), set during the siege of Leningrad and conveying that harrowing event with fierce realism, and the latter novel’s sequel, The Betrayal (2010), longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Compelling literary talent

Derek Attridge, Emeritus Professor in the Department of English and Related Literature, said her early death had “robbed us of one of the most compelling literary talents in England.”

He said: “One of the remarkable features of her work was its range: not only was she that rare thing, an accomplished writer of both poetry and fiction, but her subject matter reached from the domestic and intimate to the epic and national, and the readers she wrote for included children and young adults.”

“She did not shy away from depicting pain, loss, and many other kinds of suffering, and had a particular interest in revealing women’s experience during times of crisis.”

She also contributed introductions to a number of publications, among them fictional works by D. H Lawrence, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Robert Louis Stevenson and poems by Emily Brontë.

York alumni

Professor Attridge added: “When, as Head of the English Department, I contacted her about a reading in York, I discovered that she still had warm memories of her time as a student here. Few of our alumni have contributed as much to the continuing vitality of English literature.”

Bloodaxe Books, which has published Dunmore since her first poetry collection, The Apple Fall, was released in 1983, through to her final collection Inside the Wave, which came out in April this year, said it was "immensely saddened" by her passing. 

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