Born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1957, Alan Riach holds degrees from the Universities of Cambridge, where he studied English as an undergraduate, and Glasgow, where he completed his doctorate in the Department of Scottish Literature. He worked in New Zealand from 1986 to December 2000.
His critical writing has appeared in numerous books and journals in Britain, New Zealand and elsewhere. He is the General Editor of the multi-volume Carcanet Press Collected Works of Hugh MacDiarmid, including the Selected Poems (New Directions, U.S.A., 1993; Penguin 20th Century Classics, 1994). He is the author of Hugh MacDiarmid’s Epic Poetry (Edinburgh University Press, 1991), The Poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid (Glasgow: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 1999) and the co-editor of The Radical Imagination: Lectures and Talks by Wilson Harris (L3: The University of Liège, 1992). He has written and presented Scotland’s Renaissance, a series of programmes for New Zealand radio’s Concert FM (1993), and the ‘Literature’ sections of the 10-part Concert FM radio series Fearful Symmetries: The 20th Century in Retrospect (1999-2000), as well as the three-part series The Good of the Arts (Radio New Zealand Concert Programme, first broadcast 2001 and repeated).
His poetry has been published in numerous journals in Scotland, New Zealand and internationally. It is collected in This Folding Map (Auckland University Press / Oxford University Press, 1990), An Open Return (Untold Books, New Zealand, 1991), First and Last Songs (Auckland University Press / Chapman, Edinburgh, 1995), Clearances (Hazard Press, NZ / Scottish Cultural Press, 2001), and most recently Homecoming (Luath Press, 2009).
Since 2003, Alan Riach has held the Professorship in Scottish Literature at Glasgow Univeristy. His most recent critical books are Representing Scotland in Literature, Popular Culture and Iconography: The Masks of the Modern Nation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and, co-authored with the artist Alexander Moffat, Arts of Resistance: Poets, Portraits and Landscapes of Modern Scotland (Luath Press, 2008).
He has contributed poems and essays to numerous recent volumes, including Scotlands: Poets and the Nation (co-edited with Professor Douglas Gifford, Carcanet, 2004), 121 New Zealand Poets (Godwit Press, 2005), Spirits of the Age: Scottish Self-Portraits (ed. Paul Scott, Saltire Society, 2005), The Wallace Muse (ed. Lesley Duncan and Elspeth King, 2005) and The Edinburgh Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry (Edinburgh University Press, 2005).