Author details

John Burns


I was born in 1954, went to university in Edinburgh where I studied English. I was one of the founding editors of Cencrastus magazine in 1979. My PhD thesis on Neil Gunn and Zen Buddhism was published by Canongate in 1988 as Celebration of the Light.

Since 1983 I have lived in Dumfries and Galloway have been a full-time  English teacher for thirty years. I am currently one of the editorial team of Southlight Magazine. I also teach Tai Chi.

About writer's work

I have published stories, poems, reviews in a wide variety of periodicals including Chapman, Lallans, New Edinburgh Review, Northwords Now, Tears in the Fence, The Herald etc. Poems have been commended in the McCash competition and included in their annual anthologies.

I write in Scots and English. 

Main publications:  
Celebration of the Light: Zen in the Novels of Neil Gunn, 
Series of Dreams: The Vision songs of Bob Dylan, Glen Murray Publishing.
Poems included in Chuckies Fir the Cairn, edited by Rab Wilson, Luath Press
Poetry collection, Open Sky Poems, Roncadora Press

I  was one of the founding editors of Cencrastus

At present I am one of the three editors of Southlight Magazine.

I have recently translated Arthur Waley’s Monkey into Scots. This work has been scrutinized by two leading Chinese translators, Brian Holton, and Dr Bill Dolby, who are of the opinion that my version is true to the original and that the use of Scots brings a new kind of life and vitality to it.

I have also translateted A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night into Scots.

I have also written on Neil Gunn’s The Silver Darlings for ASLS, and have already published a Scotnote on Alan Spence’s Its Colours They Are Fine and Way to Go.

I have read frequently either on my own or with others, eg. Robert Crawford, Aonghas MacNeacail, Liz Niven.

Current events and projects

My Scots version of Shakespeare’s A Midsimmer Nicht’s Dreme has been chosen by the Royal Shakespeare Company to be one of the plays in its Open Stages project.

I am currently finishing his Scots version of Monkey, the Chinese tale of the mischievous stone monkey who comes to life and creates mayhem as he sets out on his journey towards enlightenment.

Other work

Keen to do live readings and workshops.

Subjects like Memory/Family/Landscape/People and Landscape are areas I would like to explore in workshops/writing sessions.


Local authority where they are based

Dumfries and Galloway

Local authorities where they can work

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles), Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, Shetland, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian, Other

Age groups

Teens, Adults

LL funded


BRAW network


Author type

Poet, Writer


English, Scots

Books written

Open Sky

Author(s): John Burns
Lyric poetry. Poems of awakening. Published by Roncadora Press.

Series of Dreams: the vision songs of Bob Dylan

Author(s): John Burns
Bob Dylan is the most influential songwriter of our time. His lyrics have inspired more than one generation to challenge received social and spiritual concepts about the world they inhabit.

Celebration of the Light; Zen in the Novels of Neil Gunn

Author(s): John Burns
This is a penetrating study of the striking parallels between the work of Scottish novelist Neil Gunn and Eastern thought, particularly those of Zen Buddhism and Taoism.