Michael Ogilvie Imlah and his twin sister Fiona were born in 1956 and spent their early years in Milngavie, near Glasgow. The family moved to Kent in the late 60s, and Mick went on to study English at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating with a First in 1979. He then begun, though never completed, a DPhil on ‘Arthurian myth in Victorian poetry’. Imlah remained attached to Magdalen however, as a junior lecturer and also in helping to revive the periodical Oxford Poetry in 1983.
At the same time, he became the editor of Poetry Review before succeeding Andrew Motion as poetry editor at Chatto, switching in the early 90s to the Times Literary Supplement, where he became the poetry editor in 1995, and where he met Maren Meinhardt, with whom he had two daughters. Throughout, he wrote reviews for newspapers and magazines on books, TV and culture. In 2000, he edited The New Penguin Book of Scottish Verse with Robert Crawford, in 2004, the Faber selection of Alfred Lord Tennyson and in 2008, a similar selection of Edwin Muir.
His tutor at Oxford, John Fuller, had published his first pamphlet in 1982, which was followed by the collection, Birthmarks (Chatto & Windus, 1988). He continued to publish individual poems, was included in Penguin Modern Poets 3 (second series, 1995) and later, a second pamphlet, but it was not until 2008 that his second book, The Lost Leader, was published by Faber & Faber. The collection, which ‘presents a kind of mini-alternative history of Scotland’, duly won the Forward Prize shortly before Imlah died of motor neurone disease in 2009. He is buried in Ayrshire.
The Winter 2009 issue of Oxford Poetry was dedicated to him, and Selected Poems was published in 2010, followed by Selected Prose in 2015. His archive is held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.