David Constantine was born in Salford, Lancashire in 1944. As a young man he attended Wadham College, Oxford where he read Modern Languages. After graduation he went on to become a Fellow of The Queen’s College, Oxford. In 1969, he began lecturing at Durham University, where he would remain until 1981 when he started work at Oxford. He became a Supernumerary Fellow at Oxford in 2000.
His first collection, Watching for the Dolphin, was released in 1983 and includes the poem, ‘Watching for Dolphins.’ This narrative piece details the reality of human ambitions and hopes, and is considered to be Constantine’s most celebrated work. He won the 1983 Alice Hunt Bartlett Award for the piece.
He followed this collection with a non-fiction book, Early Greek Travellers and the Hellenic Ideal, which was published in 1984. This work discusses the place of travel in Greek society and won the 1986 Runciman Award. Around this same time period he released Davies, then a few years later, Selected Poems, and in 1985 he won the Southern Arts Literature Prize for the poetry collection, Madder.
He continued to publish in the 1990s, releasing Capar Hauser in 1994, and The Pelt of Wasps, in 1998. Constantine also completed a translation of Hölderlin, Selected Poems’ for which he won the 1990 Poetry Book Society European Translation Prize. This was not his only foray into translation, in the early 2000s his translation of Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s Lighter than Air, won the Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation.
In the 2000s he also published his collection, Something for the Ghosts and the volume, Under the Dam. These were followed by The Shieling in 2009, for which he was shortlisted for the Frank O’Conner International Short Story Award and Tea at the Midland and Other Stories in 2012. This collection of short stories did win the 2013 Frank O’Conner Award, and the title story, “Tea at the Midland,” won the BBC National Short Story Award.
In 2013, he also published Poetry: The Literary Agenda, which was followed by another short story collection two years later, In Another Country: Selected Stories. This same year saw the release of the film, 45 Years, which was based on of the short story, “In Another Country.”
Constantine has also worked as the co-editor of the literary journal Modern Poetry in Translation as well as serving as a chief judge for the TS Eliot Prize, one of the most prestigious prizes a poet can be awarded.