Full biography

Olivia McCannon was born on Merseyside and lives in Harlesden London.

Her poetry collection ‘Exactly My Own Length’ (Carcanet/Oxford Poets) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize, and won the 2012 Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. She also writes short fiction, lyrics and libretti.

She studied at the Queen’s College, Oxford (French/German), then at the Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III) on an Entente Cordiale scholarship.

She lived in France for nine years (eight in Belleville, Paris), and her translations from French include a nineteenth-century novel (Penguin Classics), modern poetry (Eland), and contemporary plays (by Marie Ndiaye, Elie Karam, Pauline Sales, Odile Cornuz – for the Royal Court Theatre in London). She has also written co-translations from Spanish and Burmese.

Exactly My Own Length (Carcanet/Oxford Poets, 2011)

‘Olivia McCannon’s first collection explores life on the edge of possibility: in one moment the familiar is blown open, we plunge into the unknown. […] From families improvising a living space in Cairo’s City of the Dead, to a veteran of the Normandy landings coming home to the peaceful reparation of ‘glueing, welding, soldering’, life is luminous, and resolutely seized.’

Fenton Aldeburgh Prize, Chair of judges, Robert Seatter: ‘In a very close field, what we valued in Olivia McCannon’s book was the judged authenticity of her voice. Her collection has a subtle craftsmanship, and her clean and precise language rewards several re-readings revealing new layers of connection and meaning. Exactly My Own Length is surprising without ever being showy, feelingful without overplaying its sentiment, and universal without being predictable’.

Washing Lines: A Collection of Poems (2011), Lautus Press
Oxford Poets Anthology 2007 (Carcanet)
Penguin’s Poems for Love (2009)
Penguin’s Poems for Life (2007)

Prizes and Awards
Winner of the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize (2012)
Shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for First Full Collection (2012)
Hawthornden Fellowship (2005)
Shortlisted for Eric Gregory Award (2003)
Second prize Keats-Shelley Award (2003)

Shortlisted for Harpers and Queen/Orange Prize for Fiction Competition (2002) and Willesden Herald Prize (2008)

Old Man Goriot, Balzac (Penguin Classics, 2011) Translator
Poetry of Place: Paris (Eland, 2013) Co-translator
ABRSM Song Books (ABRSM, 2008) Singing translations of international folk songs

Yonec, after Marie de France, composer William Lyons, for Vivien Ellis, The Dufay Collective and puppets. Work-in-progress performed at Dartington, July 2012.
Sea Voices (Editions Musicales Européennes, 2000), for Narrator, Viola da Gamba, Choir and Orchestra
Composer: Thierry Pécou.