Author details

John Burnside


John Burnside was born in Dunfermline in 1955 and studied English and European Thought at Cambridge College of Arts and Technology. He worked as a steel miller, gardener, labourer, dishwasher and then, for ten years, a computer software engineer, before becoming a freelance writer in 1994. Between 1995 and 1997 he was the Scottish Arts Council Writer in Residence at Dundee University. Since 1999 he has taught Creative Writing at St Andrews University. Photograph © Niall McDiarmid

About writer's work

John Burnside's first collection of poetry was published in 1988 and won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award. A later collection, Feast Days, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and The Asylum Dance was awarded the Whitbread Poetry Award and shortlisted for both the Forward Poetry Collection of the Year and the T. S. Eliot Prize. Since 1996 he has also written prose works, including novels, short stories and a memoir, A Lie About My Father, which was awarded the Saltire Book of the Year and the Scottish Arts Council Non-Fiction Book of the Year awards for 2006. His last novel, The Devil’s Footprints, has been published around the world. Having returned recently to the short story as a form, he has been publishing short fiction in several publications internationally, including The New Yorker magazine.


Local authority where they are based


Local authorities where they can work


LL funded


BRAW network


Author type

Poet, Writer



Books written

A Catechism of the Laws of Storms

Author(s): John Burnside
Scottish poems by John Burnside of the sea, harbours, disasters, lighthouses etc illustrated with black and white drawings by Will Maclean. Published by Art First.

The Asylum Dance

Author(s): John Burnside
Lucid, tender, and strangely troubling, the poems in The Asylum Dance - which won the Whitbread Prize for Poetry - are hymns to the tension between the sanctuary of home and the lure of escape.

The Devil's Footprints

Author(s): John Burnside
Once, on a winter's night many years ago, after a heavy snow, the devil passed through the Scottish fishing town of Coldhaven, leaving a trail of dark hoofprints across the streets and roofs of t

A Lie About My Father

Author(s): John Burnside
A moving, unforgettable memoir of two lost men: a father and his child. He had his final heart attack in the Silver Band Club in Corby, somewhere between the bar and the cigarette machine.