Alan Gillis was born in Belfast. He teaches creative writing and modern and contemporary poetry at the University of Edinburgh, and has published four collections of his own poetry. The first, Somebody, Somewhere won the Strong Award for the best first collection in Ireland; Hawks and Doves (2007), was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.
Gillis co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Poetry (OUP, 2011) with Fran Brearton; OUP also published his Irish Poetry of the 1930s in 2005. He was the editor of Edinburgh Review from 2010 to 2015.