Don Paterson is the author of sixteen books of poetry, aphorism, criticism and poetic theory. His poetry has won many awards, including the Whitbread Poetry Prize, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Costa Poetry Award, and three Forward Prizes; he is the only poet to have won the T.S. Eliot Prize on two occasions. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of St Andrews and for twenty-five years was Poetry Editor at Picador Macmillan. He is a Fellow of the English Association, the Royal Society of Literature, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He received the OBE in 2008 and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2010.
Don Paterson was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1963; his father was a country musician and his mother a carer, and his grandfather a minister in the United Free Church of Scotland. At sixteen he worked for six months on Commando Magazine for Boys before being fired, correctly. As well as an author, he has worked as an arts columnist, a video games reviewer, and a music critic. In 1996 he was hired to oversee the new poetry list at Picador Macmillan and worked as its Poetry Editor for 25 years, until he ‘could no longer understand what the kids were on about’. Since 2002 his principal occupation has been as a member of staff within the School of English at the University of St Andrews, where he held the chair of Professor of Poetry; he is now Professor Emeritus.
He has also pursued a dual career as a jazz guitarist, and he worked as a music teacher into his thirties. After moving to London in 1984, he took some lessons from the guitarist Derek Bailey, and toured and recorded with the free jazz ensemble, Talisker. He formed the Celtic-influenced jazz ensemble 'Lammas' with saxophonist, composer and long-term Chick Corea sideman Tim Garland in 1989. Before disbanding in the early 2000s, Lammas had toured extensively in Europe and Asia, and recorded five albums, featuring regulars (vocalist) Christine Tobin, (drummer) Mark Fletcher and (accordionist) Karen Street, though over the years the live band had featured everyone from Kenny Wheeler, Jason Rebello and Joe Locke. He has also written incidental music for radio, stage, and several different jazz and ‘straight’ ensembles. He still performs solo and in duos with the pianist Steve Hamilton (Billy Cobham, Bill Bruford’s Earthworks) and the Scottish guitarist Graeme Stephen. He retains a strong interest in digital music technology and has made a great deal of middle-aged electronica. He is also a keen US billiards player.
He lives in Kirriemuir, Angus with his wife, the poet Lisa Brockwell, and their two dogs; he often receives visits from his ‘grown-up’ children.
Nil Nil (Faber, 1993; Forward Prize for Best First Collection, Eric Gregory Award)
God’s Gift to Women (Faber, 1997; TS Eliot Prize, Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize,
The Eyes: a version of Antonio Machado (Faber, 1999)
Landing Light (Faber, 2003; Graywolf 2004) T.S. Eliot Prize, Whitbread Poetry Prize)
Orpheus: a version of Rilke’s Die Sonette an Orpheus (Faber, 2006)
Rain (Faber 2009, FSG; Forward Prize for Best Collection)
Selected Poems (Faber, 2011)
40 Sonnets (Faber, FSG, 2016; Costa Poetry Prize, Griffin International Prize shortlist)
Zonal (Faber, 2020)
The Arctic (Faber 2022)
The Book of Shadows (Picador, 2004)
The Blind Eye (Faber, 2008)
Best Thought, Worst Thought (Graywolf, 2010)
The Fall at Home (Faber, 2019)
Toy Fights (Faber, Norton Liveright, 2023)
Criticism and Literary Theory
Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Faber, 2010)
Smith: A Reader’s Guide to the Poetry of Michael Donaghy (Picador, 2014)
The Poem: Lyric, Sign, Metre (Faber, 2018)
As Editor (selected)
Robert Burns: Selected Poems
The Zoo of the New (with Nick Laird)
New British Poetry (with Charles Simic)
Train Songs (with Sean O’Brien)
Don’t Ask Me What I Mean (with Clare Brown)
The Golden Treasury of Scottish Verse (with Kathleen Jamie and Peter Mackay)