I was born in Kirkcaldy in 1960, and studied French and German at Aberdeen University, and Theatre Studies at University College Cardiff.

After working in theatre and gallery administration, I spent several years at the Scottish Poetry Library as Fieldworker, visiting schools and writers’ groups throughout Scotland, and latterly was also Assistant Director.

With Alec Finlay I established and ran pocketbooks, an award-winning series of books of poetry and visual art (1999-2002).

Since 2004 I have worked as a freelance writer, translator, editor and writing tutor. In 2006 I was the first writer-in-residence at the John Murray Archive, National Library of Scotland, and I was awarded the Arts Foundation Fellowship for Literary Translation 2008.

I regularly collaborate with visual artists on book, exhibition and public art projects. Recent collaborations include working with sculptor Mary Bourne on works for the new flood wall in Inverness, and writing a poem-sequence ‘Into Ettrick’ for the painter Andrew Mackenzie.

A Creative Scotland ‘Vital Spark’ Award in 2010 enabled Alec Finlay and myself to undertake The Road North, a journey around Scotland guided by the 17th-century Japanese poet Basho, which led an extensive blog, an exhibition, and a jointly-composed long poem which has been published in book form, and is also available on iTunes.

In summer 2013 we began another touring project, Out of Books, based on Boswell and Johnson’s Highland tour of 1773, in particular the books they read, and refer to, as they travel.

As a translator from German I’ve worked on poems by classic authors such as Goethe, Fontane, and Celan, as well as by contemporary poets such as Arne Rautenberg, Thomas Rosenlöcher and Christine Marendon.


Ken Cockburn's website & blog

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