Don Paterson

Scottish poet and musician

Don Paterson was born in 1963 in Dundee, Scotland. He is Professor of Poetry at the University of St Andrews, and since 1996 has been poetry editor at Picador MacMillan. He is the author of seven books of poetry, and also works as a guitarist and composer.


Don Paterson's collections of poetry are Nil Nil (Faber, 1993), God’s Gift to Women (Faber, 1997), The Eyes (after Antonio Machado, Faber, 1999), Landing Light (Faber, 2003; Graywolf, 2004), Orpheus (a version of Rilke’s Die Sonette an Orpheus, Faber, 2006), Rain (Faber, 2009; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), Selected Poems (Faber, 2014) and 40 Sonnets (Faber, 2015, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016).

Paterson has twice won both the Whitbread/Costa Poetry Prize (2003, 2015) and the T S Eliot Prize (1997, 2003), along with a number of other awards including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, all three Forward Prizes (1994, 2009, 2010) and a Cholmondeley award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the English Association and a Fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh; he received the OBE in 2008 and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2010.

He has published two books of aphorism, The Book of Shadows (Picador, 2004) and The Blind Eye (Faber, 2007), and a compendium, Best Thought, Worst Thought (Graywolf, 2008); a third is in preparation. His criticism include Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Faber, 2010) and SmithA Reader’s Guide to the Poetry of Michael Donaghy.  He has also edited a number of anthologies, including 101 Sonnets (Faber, 1999), New British Poetry (with Charles Simic, Graywolf, 2001), Train Songs (With Sean O’Brien, Faber 2013) and The Zoo of the New (with Nick Laird, Penguin 2016).

He has also written drama for the stage and for radio, and for some time worked as a video games reviewer for the Times. 

He is interested in linguistic and cognitive approaches to ars poetica, and an extensive work on poetic theory, The Poem: Lyric, Sign, Metre, is forthcoming.


Although Don Paterson has worked as a writer since the early nineties, he initially left school to pursue a career in music. He moved to London in 1984, took some lessons from the guitarist Derek Bailey, and toured and recorded with Ken Hyder's Talisker, as well as a number of free improvisation groups.

He began to concentrate on classical and twelve-string guitars in the late 1980s, when formed the Celtic-influenced jazz group 'Lammas' with saxophonist and Chick Corea sideman Tim Garland. 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 featured everyone from Kenny Wheeler and Jason Rebello to Joe Locke.

He has also written incidental music for radio and stage, and a number of different jazz and ‘straight’ ensembles, including pieces for Tommy Smith’s SNJO, the classical guitarist Allan Neave and the Paragon Ensemble.

A new band, ‘The Don Paterson Situation’ – was formed in 2016, and features pianist Steve Hamilton (Billy Cobham, Bill Bruford’s Earthworks), Euan Burton (Jonathan Kreisberg, Salt House) and Alyn Cosker (Tommy Smith, SNJO). He still performs solo and in a duo with Steve Hamilton. He has also a keen interest in digital music technology, and makes a great deal of computer-based music.  (Recent bits of electronica and IDM-type stuff can be found under the ‘music’ tab.)