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John Burnside, Munich 2012
For the American gay activist and inventor (1916-2008), see John Burnside (inventor).

John Burnside (born 19 March 1955) is a Scottish writer, born in Dunfermline. He is one of only two poets (the other being Sean O'Brien) to have won both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Poetry Prize for the same book (Black Cat Bone).


Life and worksEdit

Burnside studied English and European Thought and Literature at Cambridge College of Arts and Technology. A former computer software engineer, he has been a freelance writer since 1996. He is a former Writer in Residence at the University of Dundee and is now Professor in Creative Writing at St Andrews University.,[1] where he teaches creative writing, literature and ecology and American poetry. His first collection of poetry, The Hoop, was published in 1988 and won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award. Other poetry collections include Common Knowledge (1991), Feast Days (1992), winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and The Asylum Dance (2000), winner of the Whitbread Poetry Award and shortlisted for both the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year) and the T. S. Eliot Prize. The Light Trap (2001) was also shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize. His 2011 collection, Black Cat Bone, was awarded The Forward Prize and the T.S. Eliot Prize.

Burnside is also the author of a collection of short stories, Burning Elvis (2000), and several novels, including The Dumb House (1997), The Devil's Footprints, (2007), Glister, (2009) and A Summer of Drowning, (2011). His multi-award winning memoir, A Lie About My Father, was published in 2006 and its successor, Waking Up In Toytown, in 2010. His short stories and feature essays have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, The Guardian and The London Review of Books, among others. He also writes an occasional nature column for New Statesman. In 2011 he received the Petrarca-Preis, a major German international literary prize.

Burnside's work is inspired by his engagement with nature, environment and deep ecology.[2] His collection of short stories, Something Like Happy, was published in 2013.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (elected in 1999) and in March 2016 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's National Academy for science and letters.[3]

He also lectures annually and oversees the judging of the writing prize at The Alpine Fellowship. [4]



Poetry collectionsEdit

  • The Hoop (Carcanet, 1988)
  • Common Knowledge (Secker and Warburg, London, 1991)
  • Feast Days (Secker and Warburg, London, 1992)
  • The Myth of the Twin (Jonathan Cape, London, 1994)
  • Swimming in the Flood (Jonathan Cape, London, 1995)
  • Penguin Modern Poets (Penguin, 1996)
  • A Normal Skin (Jonathan Cape, London, 1997)
  • The Asylum Dance (Jonathan Cape, London, 2000)
  • The Light Trap (Jonathan Cape, London, 2002)
  • A Poet's Polemic (2003)
  • The Good Neighbour (Jonathan Cape, 2005)
  • Selected Poems (Jonathan Cape, 2006)
  • Gift Songs (Jonathan Cape, 2007)
  • The Hunt in the Forest (Jonathan Cape, 2009)
  • Black Cat Bone (Jonathan Cape, 2011)
  • All One Breath (Jonathan Cape, 2014)
  • Still Life with Feeding Snake (Jonathan Cape, 2017)


  • The Dumb House (Jonathan Cape, London, 1997)
  • The Mercy Boys (Jonathan Cape, London, 1999)
  • Burning Elvis (Jonathan Cape, London, 2000)
  • The Locust Room (Jonathan Cape, London, 2001)
  • Living Nowhere (Jonathan Cape, London, 2003)
  • The Devil's Footprints (Jonathan Cape, 2007)
  • Glister (Jonathan Cape, 2008)
  • A Summer of Drowning (Jonathan Cape, 2011)
  • Something Like Happy (Jonathan Cape, 2013)
  • Ashland & Vine (Jonathan Cape, 2017)
  • Havergey (Little Toller, 2017)


  • Wild Reckoning (Gulbenkian, 2004), joint editor with Maurice Riordan of this anthology of ecology-related poems
  • A Lie About My Father (Biography, 2006)
  • Wallace Stevens : poems / selected by John Burnside (Poet to Poet Series, Faber and Faber, 2008)
  • Waking up in Toytown (Biography, Jonathan Cape, 2010)
  • I Put a Spell on You (Biography, Jonathan Cape, 2014)
  • On Henry Miller. Princeton University Press. 2018. ISBN 9780691166872.


  • Dice (with A. L. Kennedy), a series for television, produced by Cité-Amérique, Canada

Critical studies and reviews of Burnside's workEdit

  • 'Dwelling Places : An Appreciation of John Burnside', special edition of Agenda Magazine, Vol 45 No 4/Vol 46 No 1, Spring/Summer 2011
  • Heptonstall, Geoffrey (June – July 2014). "Independent metaphysics". The London Magazine: 132–136. Review of All one breath.


  1. ^ "Staff Profile, University of St Andrews". Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  2. ^ "Profile of John Burnside". Christchurch City Libraries. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  3. ^
  4. ^ {{cite web | url=http://www/ | title=Apply - The Alpine Fellowship |
  5. ^ "Shortlist announced for PEN/Ackerley Prize 2011". Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  6. ^ "Burnside, who has won the TS Eliot prize for 2011 for Black Cat Bone, talks to Claire Armitstead". London: The Guardian. 16 January 2012. Retrieved 25 March 2012.

External linksEdit