Tributes paid to award-winning writer John Burnside after his death at 69

Multi-award-winning Scottish poet and novelist John Burnside has died aged 69.

His publisher Jonathan Cape announced the poet’s death on Friday afternoon.

In a statement the publisher confirmed Burnside died on Wednesday following a short illness.

They said: “John was amongst the most acclaimed writers of his generation, and published prolifically across many forms – chiefly as a poet, but also as a novelist, memoirist, writer of short stories and academic works – over a career spanning nearly 40 years.”

Burnside won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for Feast Days (1992), the Whitbread Poetry Award for The Asylum Dance (2000), the Saltire Book of the Year for A Lie About My Father (2006), and in 2011 won both the TS Eliot Prize and the Forward Poetry Prize for Black Cat Bone.

He also wrote regularly for a number of publications including The Guardian, the TLS, the London Review of Books and the New Yorker.

Last year, he received the highly prestigious David Cohen Prize, awarded biennially in recognition of an author’s entire body of work.

Born in Dunfermline, Fife, in 1955, Burnside’s early life was spent in Cowdenbeath and then Corby, Northamptonshire.

He studied English and European Literature at the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology and went on to become a writer-in-residence at the University of Dundee and a professor in the School of English at the University of St Andrews.

He published his first collection, The Hoop, in 1988, then worked with Robin Robertson, an editor at Secker & Warburg, and later at Jonathan Cape, right up to the publication of his most recent collection, Ruin, Blossom, in 2024.

Hannah Westland, publishing director of Jonathan Cape, said: “John Burnside had a particularly miraculous ability to perceive and articulate both the wonders of the natural world and the everyday miracles that make up our lives.

“His work was mysterious but never mystifying, quite the opposite – he made sense of strangeness and to read him was to feel a lighting-up of the darkness. We cherished and will go on cherishing him and his work.”

Anna Webber, the writer’s literary agent, added: “This is an immense loss. John Burnside had a unique voice that brought pleasure and solace to many readers across the globe.

“His work was characterised by deep empathy and understanding. He was finely attuned to the natural world, but also to people.

“These traits, so clearly visible in his writing, also marked out the man himself.

“John was kind and gentle and generous, and I will miss him terribly.”