Current City, State, Country
Birth City, State, Country
Joanne Limburg was born in Northwest London in 1970. Her family were observant Reform Jews. She studied Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and then Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Kent, then began to publish poetry in the mid-90s. She won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 1998 and published her first collection, Femenismo, with Bloodaxe Books in 2000. Since then, she has published two further collections with Bloodaxe: Paraphernalia (2007) and The Autistic Alice (2017), which incorporates her pamphlet The Oxygen Man, poems written in the wake of her younger brother’s suicide. She has also published one collection of poetry for children, Bookside Down (Salt Publishing, 2013). Her poems have been translated into Russian, Dutch, Italian, Romanian and Chinese.
Limburg has also published fiction and non-fiction. Her novel, A Want of Kindness, (Atlantic Books, 2015) follows the life of Anne of York, an English Restoration princess who would become Queen Anne. Her first non-fiction book, the memoir The Woman Who Thought Too Much (Atlantic Books, 2010) addressed the author’s experience of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Her second, Small Pieces: A Book of Lamentations (Atlantic Books, 2017), formed the creative part of a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Kingston. Like The Oxygen Man, it concerned the death of Limburg’s brother, as well as her mother’s death from cancer, and her relationship to her Jewish identity. The structure for Small Pieces was informed by the Kabbalistic creation story of the Breaking of the Vessels; as the title suggests, it was also conceived as a very personal Midrash on the Book of Lamentations. Her most recent book, Letters to My Weird Sisters: On Autism and Feminism (Atlantic Books, 2021), explores autistic female experience over several centuries of European and US history, in the form of letters to four women from different times and places.
She has taught Creative Writing for the Open College of the Arts, the Open University and De Montfort University, and has been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at several Cambridge colleges. Since 2021, she has been a Teaching Associate at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education. Limburg is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?
The English and Hebrew words I heard spoken, or sung, on Friday evenings and Seder nights at home, or in the synagogue, were the words that first showed me what language could do, and that it was language that makes a tent to dwell in. The rhythms and vocabulary I absorbed then keep recurring. My work often has biblical references; again, these were stories I grew up with, and one of the earliest things I can remember writing was a four-line (or so) version of the Book of Jonah, complete with whale illustration, as a six-year-old in school.
I do not practise in a conventional way, but I keep coming back to written Jewish word, or perhaps the words draw me back. I’m coming to realise, in the wake of an autism diagnosis, why I have always found communal forms of worship so difficult, so I need to find my own way. At the moment, after being ambivalent for some years, I am coming to a sense of myself as a specifically Jewish poet, and wish to take a full part in this ongoing conversation.
The Autistic Alice (Bloodaxe Books, 2017)
Paraphernalia (Bloodaxe Books, 2007)
Femenismo (Bloodaxe Books, 2000)
Bookside Down (Salt Publishing, 2013)
A Want of Kindness (Atlantic Books, 2015)
Letters to my Weird Sisters: on Autism and Feminism (Atlantic Books, 2021)
Small Pieces: A Book of Lamentations (Atlantic Books, 2017)
The Woman Who Thought Too Much (Atlantic Books, 2010)
Links to Sample Works
King’s College, University of Cambridge
University of Kent
University of Kingston