Polly Clark is a novelist and poet. She was born in Toronto and lives in Helensburgh on Scotland’s west coast. She writes on a houseboat in London. Her latest novel is TIGER, the story of a dynasty of wild Siberian tigers, and the people who survive in the Russian taiga alongside them.
Published in May 2019 this novel was hailed by The Guardian as a ‘passionate, remarkable and uplifting novel’ – and more specifically – ‘A startling, gore-splattered, nerve-racking exploration of how human and animal territories – both physical and psychic – collide’ (full review here). Alan Massie in the Scotsman said: ‘Clark’s tigress is magnificent and terrifying… and her evocation of the of the terrifying wastes of the taiga and the grim horror of a Siberian winter represents a real and memorable achievement.’
Polly’s work has won and been shortlisted for several literary awards, including:
Saltire Scottish Novel of the Year (Tiger, shortlist 2019)
TS Eliot Prize (Take Me With You, shortlist, 2005),
The Eric Gregory Award (Kiss, win, 1997);
The Michael Marks Awards (A Handbook for the Afterlife, shortlist, 2016);
MsLexia Novel Prize (Larchfield, win, 2016);
Tony Lothian Prize for biography (memoir, win, 2012);
Her debut novel, Larchfield, about the poet WH Auden’s time as a schoolmaster in Helensburgh fictionalised this little known part of the poet’s life and won praise from Margaret Atwood, Louis de Bernieres and Richard Ford. It (and its author) were featured in a BBC film about Auden, Stop All The Clocks, directed by BAFTA winning Adam Low, alongside Alan Bennett, Richard Curtis, Alexander McCall Smith and others.
Polly has performed both poetry and prose at literary festivals across the UK, including the Edinburgh International Book Festival, The Cheltenham Book Festival, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Aldeburgh Festival, Wigtown Book Festival. Her work has been broadcast on BBC radio, most recently for the BBC Proms talk with Matthew Sweet and Glyn Maxwell exploring Leonard Bernstein’s interpretation of WH Auden’s Age of Anxiety (2018). She has also taken part in festivals and translation exchanges abroad, funded by British Council, Arts Council England, Creative Scotland and others to China, Israel, Croatia and Hungary. Her poetry and novels have among them so far been translated into Chinese, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish and Bulgarian.
She has chaired Richard Ford on a UK book tour, and presented many other authors at literary events. As Literature Programme Producer for Cove Park, Scotland’s International Artist Residency Centre, she organised residencies and exchanges with writers from all over the world.
Polly has worked as a zookeeper at Edinburgh Zoo, and for Tiger undertook a research trip into the remote Russian taiga where she learned to track wild Siberian tigers.
Polly’s third novel, Ocean, will be published spring 2022.