Son of the manse, Robin Fulton Macpherson was born in Arran in 1937, attending primary school there and in Glasgow and secondary school in Golspie, Sutherland. He attained an MA in 1959 and PhD in 1972 from Edinburgh University. From 1969 to 1971 he held the Writers’ Fellowship, also at Edinburgh University. He was senior lecturer at Stavanger University from 1973 until his retirement in 2006. Although based in Norway for this period, involvement in the Scottish literary scene continued through his editorship of Lines Review from 1967-1976, and editorial work on Iain Crichton Smith and Robert Garioch.
His Selected Poems (Macdonald, 1980) gathered work from five earlier volumes and was followed by two further collections Fields of Focus (Anvil, 1982) and the curiously titled Coming down to Earth; and, Spring Is Soon (Oasis Books, 1990). In 2013 Marick Press, Michigan brought out a 502 page collection, A Northern Habitat, covering his work between 1960 and 2010. Macpherson has continued writing into his eighties, with recent publications including Unseen Islands and other poems (Marick Press, 2019) and Arrivals of Light (Shearsman Books, 2020).
He has translated a large number of Scandinavian poets, most notably Tomas Tranströmer, Kjell Espmark and Harry Martinson from Sweden and Olav H Hauge from Norway. Macpherson’s translations have garnered awards from the Swedish Academy in 1978 and 1998, as well as the Artur Lunkvist Award (1977), and the Bernard Shaw Translation Prize (2010).
In turn, book-length selections of his own work can be found in other languages- Sekunden överlever stenen, into Swedish by Johannes Edfelt, Lasse Söderberg & Tomas Tranströmer (Ellerströms, Lund, 1996); Grenzflug, into German by Margitt Lehbert (Edition Rugerup, Hörby, 2008) and Poemas, translated into Spanish by Circe Maia (Rebeca Line Editoras, Montevideo, 2013)
“My poetry is about people. I am particularly interested in observations of ‘normal’ life, often beginning with a humdrum detail or incident and working outwards”