I am a poet and a writer of non-fiction. I began writing
poetry in my teens and published a first booklet at age 20. Since then, writing has remained the touchstone of my life. It’s where I do my best thinking, and where I rub up against the world.
I was raised in Currie, Midlothian, the child of an ordinary, non-literary Scottish background. Writing poetry was an odd thing to do. I don’t know why it began, but it was secretive and liberating and real.
In my younger days travel informed my work. Visits to the mountains of the Eastern Karakoram (Northern Pakistan) produced my travel book Among Muslims. However, over the last decade while raising my family, I’ve worked on shorter non-fiction as well as
poetry and published two books of essays: Findings and Sightlines.
I have what Robert Louis Stevenson called ‘a strong Scots accent of the mind’ and my
constellation of interests seem to include the natural world (widely defined), archaeology, medical humanities, and art. To produce work I’ve walked and sailed many miles, and benefitted from the company and expertise of visual artists, pathologists, curators, ornithologists, and from encounters with other species too, especially birds and whales.
Reviews and occasional writings appear in such journals as The Guardian, the London
Review of Books and Orion (USA). I love the intimacy of radio, and have written for BBC
Radio 3 and 4. My poems have appeared on the Underground systems of London, New York and Shanghai, and closer to home, a poem of mine was recently chosen by the public to be carved on a huge wooden beam on the national monument at Bannockburn.
Since 2010, I’ve held a part-time post as Professor of Poetry at the University of Stirling.
This all sounds very grand, but the muse comes and she goes. There are times of intense writing, and times of silence. I’ve been publishing now for above 30 years, and still feel that it’s all provisional. I never can tell what will happen next.