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Born of English and émigré parentage, John Miles grew up in South Australia. After completing his secondary education at an agricultural high school, he spent the next seventeen years travelling and living in Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa, earning his living at a number of occupations from farmhand to book warehouse manager and technical writer and illustrator.
Miles wrote poetry from childhood but did not seek publication until well into his adult years. Since the 1980s, his work in the form of poetry, stories, essays and articles has appeared in print and on radio, in Australia and overseas and he has been a guest at writers' festivals throughout Australia. Miles has also designed covers for Small Times, an Australian periodical that publishes poetry. He is a former poetry editor of Australian Writer and has been the recipient of a number of awards, including the Max Harris Poetry and Short Story Awards and the international Mainichi Shimbun Haiku Awards. In 1993 he was invited to be a guest poet in a UK collection in tribute to Feyyaz Fergar, the Turkish and French translator and poet . Miles also became the poetry editor for Adelaide's The Independent Weekly in 2006. With an eclectic policy, reader contributions are encouraged and presented along with the work of invited special guests such as Colin Thiele, Clive James and Les Murray (q.q.v.). Translations from the likes of classical Sanskrit and the Chinese T'ang Dynasty poets, have also been featured.
In 1996 Miles was awarded a Varuna Fellowship for his research work on Lost Angry Penguins : D.B. Kerr and P.G. Pfeiffer : A Path to the Wind, published in 2000 and nominated for the Walter McKay Russell Prize for literary history and criticism. His short story, 'Ponder's End', won second prize in the Armidale Festival of Words and Music Writing Competition (Open Short Story) in 1997 and his poem 'South Seasons' was commended in the Open Poetry section of the same competition.
In 1972 Miles married Australian Kay Foster in Pretoria, South Africa. They have three children and six grandchildren. Since 2003 they have lived in Amanzi, their home built at Paradise on the banks of the River Torrens, Adelaide.