Vidyan Ravinthiran Radio, Reviews, Interviews & Books of the Year

Vidyan Ravinthiran Radio, Reviews, Interviews & Books of the Year


‘The sonnet can miniaturise whole worlds in 14 lines. Two virtuoso sequences that half-rhymed England with elsewhere this year were Mimi Khalvati’s Afterwardness (Carcanet) and Vidyan Ravinthiran’s The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here (Bloodaxe).’ – Jeremy Noel-Tod, The Sunday Times (Best Poetry of 2019)

‘Every poem in Ravinthiran’s second collection is a sonnet addressed to his wife, but here is no lack of variety in topic or tone. From interracial love to Sri Lanka’s civil war, mental health to Brexit, the range itself speaks of the ideal spouse: the person with whom we can talk about absolutely anything.’ – Maria Crawford, Financial Times (Best Poetry Books of the Year 2019)


Vidyan Ravinthiran's The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here is his second collection. This book of sonnets for his wife is finely balanced between the inward and outward. These are love poems which, considering life in Northern England for a mixed-race couple, touch on Brexit; racist and sexist abuse; taboos surrounding mental health; and the poet's Sri Lankan Tamil heritage. The collection was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for summer 2019 and was shortisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection 2019, the T S Eliot Prize 2019 and the Ledbury Munthe Poetry Prize for Second Collections 2021. 

Vidyan Ravinthiran was born in Leeds, to Sri Lankan Tamils. His first book of poems, Grun-tu-molani (Bloodaxe Books, 2014), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize and the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize. He is co-editor with Seni Seneviratne and Shash Trevett, of the anthology Out of Sri Lanka: Tamil, Sinhala and English poetry from Sri Lanka and its diasporas, a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation, which was published by Bloodaxe in June 2023. After teaching at the universities of Cambridge, Durham and Birmingham in the UK, he now teaches at Harvard in the US.

For reviews, readers' notes and videos of Vidyan Ravinthiran reading from and talking about his book, see the T S Eliot Prize newsletter here.

Two poems from the collection ('Brexit' and 'Faraj') are included in The Guardian's feature '11 Odes to Europe': 'As Britain braces itself for the Brexit endgame, leading poets take the pulse of our fragmenting world'.  Read the feature here.

Vidyan Ravinthiran's two poetry collections and the Out of Sri Lanka anthology are all distributed in the USA by Consortium Book Sales.


Poetry Unbound podcast, Friday 21 July 2023

Vidyan Ravinthiran’s poem ‘Artist’ from his second collection The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here was read and discussed by Irish poet Pádraig Ó Tuama on the US Poetry Unbound podcast from the On Being Project. Pádraig began and ended the podcast by reading the sonnet aloud, bookending his thoughtful comments on the poem.

‘This poem, ‘Artist’, is towards the end of Vidyan Ravinthiran’s book, The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here. And it’s a book composed entirely of sonnets. There’s two sonnets per page, and they’re all addressed to his wife. This one comes towards the end, and I love it.’
- Pádraig Ó Tuama, speaking on his Poetry Unbound podcast

On Being have shared a video of the poem reading on Instagram.

The poem, a full transcript of the episode and a link to the podcast is on the On Being webpage here.


On Form: The Sonnet, BBC Radio 4, Sunday 23 May 2021, 4.30pm (repeated Saturday 29 May, 11.30pm)

Vidyan Ravinthiran and Hannah Lowe contribute to this episode of Andrew McMillan’s series on poetic form. Both poets were interviewed, and then read their own poems.  Vidyan read ‘Aubade’ from his second collection The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here, a book of love sonnets to his wife. Hannah Lowe read ‘The Register’ and ‘Sonnet for the A Level English Literature and Language Poetry Syllabus’ from her forthcoming third collection The Kids (out 16 September 2021 from Bloodaxe).

‘In this series, free verse poet Andrew McMillan meets a diverse group of contemporary British poets who are re-framing traditional techniques to write about the modern world, exploring why form is fashionable again.  In today’s programme, poet and academic Aviva Dautch goes back in time to unpick the history of the classic but flexible sonnet, with poems read by Juliet Stevenson. She traces the sonnet’s European origins and the poetic revolution that happened once it reached the UK and became a mainstay of English poetry in a modern multicultural Britain. This year sees the publication of three books of sonnets with new takes, ranging from playful to dark, on the traditional form. We’ll meet Jacqueline Saphra, author of 100 Lockdown Sonnets, as well as sonneteers Vidyan Ravinthiran and Hannah Lowe, hearing poems that travel from Limehouse canals to inner-city classrooms.’

Vidyan joined from 16:15 and Hannah at 21:30. A clip from Vidyan’s interview ran in the intro.

LIsten here.


Radio 3's The Verb recorded the T S Eliot Prize Readings held on 12 January 2020 at the Royal Festival Hall.  Highlights from the readings were broadcast on The Verb on Friday 17 January, featuring all ten poets reading from their shortlisted collections. 

‘I was blown away by Vidyan Ravinthirian’s collection The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here and his use of the sonnet form.’ – Ian McMillan, speaking on Radio 3’s The Verb  (Vidyan features from 19:20)

The readings by all ten poets can be heard in full on YouTube here.

'My personal favourite... is Vidyan Ravinthiran’s The Million-Petalled Flower of Being Here, a wonderful sonnet sequence which, as its title implies, is a little bit about everything, including wrens and whimbrels.' - Jeremy Noel-Tod, The Sunday Times, reviewing the ten titles shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize 2019


The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here was reviewed in The Guardian's Forward Prize special feature of 13 July 2019. 

‘Also on the shortlist [for the Forward Prize for Best Collection] is another collection that approaches divisive politics with humanity and warmth: Vidyan Ravinthiran’s The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here. Formally assured but far from formulaic, this book of sonnets for the poet’s wife is testament, at its best, to the ways in which poetry can reach from the particular to the universal. Moving and inviting in their conversational ease, Ravinthiran’s sonnets stretch from the grounding details of life for a mixed-race couple in England today… to thoughtfully touch on themes of identity, class, work and community.’ – Ben Wilkinson, The Guardian

Read the full review here.


Vidyan Ravinthiran's collection was also one of the Forward Prize shortlisted titles that was discussed in The Guardian's Editorial of 26 October 2019 the week after the prizes were announced.  Available to read in full here.

'These poets are all, in their own ways, political. Race, the body, feminism, gender, the environment, identity, state violence – all these subjects are explored in different ways. Their work pushes at the edges of what a book of poems can be. To read their words is to be brought tidings of the fragile, fraught times we live in that the language of the news bulletins cannot quite convey.' - The Guardian 


An in-depth review featured on the Poetry School blog. Click here to read the full review.

‘This is a collection both about the particulars of shared domestic life, and one charged with greater, uninvited, forces. It is about the persistence of that love, and how it might be brought to bear on the wider world; how the intercultural understanding which exists in a couple, if scaled up, has the power to make the world anew, to bring into being new and wondrous modes of coexistence.’ – Stephanie Sy-Quia, Poetry School

A perceptive and detailed review of Vidyan Ravinthiran’s ‘brilliantly original new collection’ The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here is featured in The Yorkshire Times.

‘The poet’s domestic introspection is no less than a conduit for contemplation of the troubles which define many lives. And in this fine collection, they include racism...cultural dislocation, mental illness, politics and identity… Vidyan Ravinthiran’s collection is both bracing and complex, and it is difficult to give a comprehensive review of such a diversionary, inclusive body of work without venturing into essay territory.’ – Steve Whitaker, The Yorkshire Times

Click here to read the review in full.


 Vidyan Ravinthiran talks about The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here

Vidyan Ravinthiran discusses his collection The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here following its shortlisting for the 2019 T.S. Eliot Prize.


 Vidyan Ravinthiran reads ‘New Year's Eve’

Vidyan Ravinthiran reads and introduces his poem ‘New Year's Eve’ from his T.S. Eliot Prize-shortlisted collection The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here.


For details of Vidyan Ravinthiran's forthcoming events, click here.

[28 October 2019]

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