Born in New Zealand, Robyn Marsack left her hometown of Wellington to study at Oxford University, where she was awarded a B.Phil. and D.Phil. in English literature. She published her first two books – a selection of Edmund Blunden’s poems and a critical study of Louis MacNeice’s poetry, The Cave of Making (OUP, 1982) – while a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College. Blunden led her to Carcanet Press, where she began her editorial apprenticeship, working on books and the house journal PN Review. Alongside her immersion in the world of literary publishing, she was encouraged to try her hand at translation from French. After moving to Scotland with her husband, she became a freelance publishers’ editor, working for Carcanet and also educational publishers such as Macmillan, EUP and Yale University Press. The Open University Press published her study Sylvia Plath in 1992. Scotland gave her the opportunity to review poetry and prose for newspapers and journals, and to serve on the Literary and Publishing panels of the Scottish Arts Council.
Robyn Marsack won the Scott-Moncrieff Prize in 1988 for her translation of the Swiss-French travel writer Nicolas Bouvier’s The Scorpion-Fish, and went on to translate his classic L’Usage du Monde / The Way of the World.
She is proud to have been Director of the Scottish Poetry Library from 2000 to 2016. Amongst many other activities, she inaugurated its publishing programme, edited several poetry anthologies, and enjoyed facilitating poetry translation workshops in partnership with Literature Across Frontiers. She maintained her NZ connections, co-editing the anthology Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets with Andrew Johnston (VUP/Carcanet), and editing Best NZ Poems online in 2009.
Since leaving the Library, Robyn has been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the University of Glasgow 2016-2018 and, as well as becoming a Trustee of the Edwin Morgan Trust, served as Chair of the Board of Trustees of StAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival, from 2017 to 2022. She remains a member of the board of Carcanet Press. Robyn was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2016. Her compilation of letters celebrating Carcanet’s jubilee, Fifty Fifty, was published in autumn 2019, as was her translation of essays by Nicolas Bouvier, So It Goes, from Eland; she is continuing to work on literary and cultural aspects of the First World War.