John Greening

Scope and Content

Consists of letters and proofs relating to the published poetry works of John Greening.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Greening was born on the banks of the River Thames and spent his early years in Kew, then moved to a house in Hounslow which was directly under the main flightpath to Heathrow (see NIGHTFLIGHTS). He studied at Swansea and for a year at the University of Mannheim where he spent more time teaching himself about English poetry than he did in studying German. While taking his MA at Exeter, he corresponded with Ted Hughes who managed to convince him that his poetry had some merit. He began to publish with journals such as Emma Tennant’s Bananas and South-West Review. He married Jane Woodland in 1978 and (after a spell as a part-time children’s conjuror) joined BBC Radio Three to work as Hans Keller’s Clerk, New Music. Keller gave him an empty office and let him spend much of his time writing.

In 1979 the couple volunteered for VSO and worked for two years in Aswan, Upper Egypt, which was the focus of WESTERNERS, John Greening’s first collection. Upon their return, he taught Vietnamese Boat People in Scotland and was awarded a Scottish Arts Council Writer’s Bursary. He also wrote a play about Robert Louis Stevenson, which won Best New Play (the Ind Coop award) at the Edinburgh Festival. Since 1983, he has lived in ‘Huntingdonshire’ (technically Cambridgeshire) with his wife and two daughters, where he teaches at Kimbolton School.

In 1987, Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney selected his long poem, ‘The Coastal Path’ to be among the top six from over 30,000 submissions for the Observer/Arvon poetry competition. Shortly after this, his second major collection The Tutankhamun Variations (following a pamphlet, WINTER JOURNEYS (1984)) appeared from Bloodaxe. Since then, his poetry has been widely published and among other prizes he has been awarded the Bridport (judged by Roger Garfitt) in 1998 Otto Hahn in Huntingdonshire and in 2002 the TLS Centenary Prize for one of his recent Iceland poems. Other books followed: FOTHERINGHAY AND OTHER POEMS (1995), THE COASTAL PATH (1996), THE BOCASE STONE (1996), culminating in a ‘New and Selected’ from Rockingham in 1998: NIGHTFLIGHTS. More recently, he has published two long poems GASCOIGNE’S EGG (2000) and OMM SETY (2001)) and THE HOME KEY (Shoestring, 2003). He received an award from the Society of Authors to fund research into his next book, ICELAND SPAR, which is about his father’s wartime years in Iceland and an extended selection of his work was published in 2009: HUNTS: POEMS 1979-2009 [add link] In 2008 he received a Cholmondeley Award and in 2010 received a Hawthornden Fellowship and was made a Fellow of the English Association.

John Greening's next collection, TO THE WAR POETS, will appear from Oxford Poets (Carcanet) in June 2013.

John Greening has written many plays (one about the Lindbergh kidnap was produced in the USA in 2002) and has had short stories published in Peter Ackroyd’s PEN anthology and elsewhere.He recently produced studies of Yeats, the War Poets, Ted Hughes, Thomas Hardy, Edward Thomas and the Elizabethan Love Poets, all from Greenwich Exchange, who also produced his most recent book, POETRY MASTERCLASS. A book about American poetry since 1963 remains unpublished. He is editing an anthology of poems about classical composers. He is a regular reviewer for the TLS and London Magazine and has written for other journals such as PN Review, Poetry Wales, The Hudson Review (USA) and Quadrant (Australia). His poems have appeared in the TLS, The Independent, The Observer, The Spectator and one of his collections has been translated into French by Myriam Davenel. His work has featured several times on Radio Three; he appeared on a BBC Wales television documentary about Dylan Thomas’s friendship with Vernon Watkins. He lectured on Watkins at the 1999 Dylan Thomas Festival, gave the 2001 Jon Silkin Memorial Lecture as part of the Indian King Festival and spoke on First World War Poets at the 2005 Ledbury Festival. His song-cycle, ‘Falls’ to music by Paul Mottram was premiered by the Dunedin Consort at the Wigmore Hall in June 2000 and has since been on tour in Scotland and Canada.

John Greening has for the past three years been asked by the Society of Authors to judge the Eric Gregory Awards for poets under thirty.

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