By Ray Givans

Tolstoy in Love

“Daring and risk taking” first full-length collection of poems by Tyrone-born Ray Givans.


Tolstoy in Love is the first full-length collection of poems by Tyrone-born Ray Givans. Daring and risk-taking, the first section begins in the voice of Anna Akhmatova, with what John Wakeman (founder and co-editor of THE SHOp), calls “a triumphant, lyrical celebration of her son’s release after years in Stalin’s prisons”. Notions of voice, and influence, are further explored in poems that are both inner portraits of and meditations on a gallery of writers, including Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, Emily Dickinson, John Berryman and Simone Weil… “The second section… is largely autobiographical—reminiscences of a Protestant boyhood in Northern Ireland, evocations of a divided Belfast… The poems here are humane, sometimes touching, sometimes ironic, sometimes playful. Here are two books for the price of one, both worth having.”

“These extraordinary poem-portraits—studious, emotionally commanding and engaging—are a true poetic achievement. Verity, felicity, scrupulous beauty—Tolstoy in Love is a work of great human value.” — Ian Sansom. BBC Writer in Residence, Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry

“Readers should not let the title mislead them: this collection is about much more than Tolstoy… The book chronicles the reality of pain and sorrow in the world and how moments of grace can sometimes provide escape from suffering.”— Wendy Marie Vergoz, Anglican Theological Review, 94:2

ISBN 978 1 906614 08 9 Paperback
82 pp, 140 x 216 mm
May, 2009

Product Detail

  • ISBN: : 9781906614089
  • Size: : 216 x 140 mm
  • Pages: : 82 pp
  • Published: : May 2009

About The Author


RAY GIVANS was born in Portadown in 1951, and brought up in the village of Castlecaulfield, Co. Tyrone. Givans was awarded a B.Ed. from Queen’s University, Belfast, and an M.Ed. from the University of Bath. Ray Givans was a teacher of English in secondary schools in Co. Down, and lives in Belfast. Givans’ pamphlet collections include Before Winter (Grendon House, 2000), Going Home (Lapwing Publications, 2004) and The Innermost Room (Poetry Salzburg Pamphlet Series, 2017). He collaborated with artist Tony Martin on Earth Works (Subway, 2003). A first full collection, Tolstoy in Love (Dedalus Press, 2009), was shortlisted for the Strong award, and published in a bi-lingual English/Italian version. Prizes and commendations include The Jack Clemo Memorial (1st and 2nd in consecutive years), Studio Open (1st), Christianity and the Arts (2nd), Boyle Arts Open, ABC Writers (3rd) and The C.S. Lewis Festival (1st). His poetry has been published in journals and anthologies including Artwords, an Ulster Anthology of Visual and Verbal Art (Nicholson & Bass, 2001), FourXFour, The Word Ark (Dedalus Press, 2020) and The SHOp: An Anthology of Poetry (The Liffey Press, 2020). Ray Givans has been a guest reader at The John Hewitt Summer School, The Society of Authors, London, Greenbelt, Cheltenham. He has read his work on Shankill Community Radio, Premier Radio, London, Radio Ulster, NVTV and Belfast Community Television. Ray Givans has been guest editor of Christianity and the Arts, Chicago. Ray is also co-founder of The Squat Pen and The Squat Pen on Tour, bringing together established and new writers for readings.