Iain Bamforth grew up in Glasgow and graduated from its medical school. He has pursued a peripatetic career as a hospital doctor, general practitioner, translator, lecturer in comparative literature, and latterly public health consultant in several developing countries, principally in south-east Asia. His prose includes The Body in the Library (Verso, 2003), an account of modern medicine as told through literature; The Good European (Carcanet, 2006), a collection of writings on ideas and literature in European history; and A Doctor's Dictionary (Carcanet, 2015),essays on body, mind, and the conflict of values in medicine. His wide-ranging essays and reviews can be read on his website.
Reviewing Bamforth’s fourth collection, A Place in the World, David Morley commented that the poet
writes from a Scots tradition: the bracing, embracing version of it. This is a vagrant Scottish tradition that extends Scots culture outside its borders, where Robert Louis Stevenson walked it. He is quite the synthesist, drawing poem after poem into a looping arc of argument, the bottom line of which is to probe how Anglophone writing might expand imaginatively towards the cultural and linguistic variety of the European continent in a way that is neither appropriative or colonial.
(The Guardian, 4 June 2005).
His fifth poetry collection, The Crossing Fee, is published by Carcanet Press.