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Poetry

 

 

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John can be heard talking about what makes him write poetry in this talk for the Royal Literary Fund:
https://www.rlf.org.uk/showcase/john-greening-wiw/

 

Click on the book images below to read reviews.

   

 

 

  New and Recent Poetry Collections


 

 

   

The Silence
(Carcanet, June 2019)

The Silence begins and ends with Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), perhaps the best known contemporary composer of his day, famously ‘silent’ for thirty years, and constantly pestered for an eighth symphony. But this collection touches on several other kinds of silence, not least the ultimate one and the luminous possibility of something beyond: a tribute to the late Dennis O’Driscoll is a bold meditation on this possibility. Egypt is where Greening’s poetry began (as described in his 2017 memoir, Threading a Dream: a Poet on the Nile) and the sequence ‘Nebamun’s Tomb’ is here reprinted from a much praised 2016 Rack Press pamphlet. It describes an extraordinary series of tomb-paintings in the British Museum. There are extracts too from Heath, John Greening’s 2016 collaboration with Penelope Shuttle, poems which tune in to the mysteries and magic behind the noise of Heathrow, the area where the poet spent his youth. A version of Hölderlin’s classic, Homecoming, is transposed to Hounslow Heath, and Greening sends a verse letter to Chief Seattle (‘There is no death, only a change of worlds’) from on board a flight to the Pacific North-West. The Silence also visits the Peak District and England’s chalk landscapes, drawing out their mystical and visionary details, and several poems take us to the flatlands of Eastern England with which this poet is particularly associated. Along the way are poems about trees, a totem pole, penny coins, a coal bunker, Hilliard miniatures, the X5 bus route and migrating geese. The final third of the book consists of a single long poem exploring the creative process (the composer’s’s but also the poet’s) and the tensions at play in Sibelius’s life as he looks back over his seven great symphonies, and struggles to produce an eighth in the forests of Järvenpää.

Order an advance copy from Carcanet
https://www.carcanet.co.uk/cgi-bin/scribe?showinfo=ip016


 

 
   

Ten Poems about Sheds
(Candlestick, 2018)

Sheds have come a long way since the man-cave cliché. These days, a shed is a far more democratic place – somewhere that symbolises the privacy and space that we all need. This anthology explores sheds from every imaginable angle. The poems take us to a child’s hiding place, a treasury of exotic implements and rich aromas and a retreat in which to remember the past. Derek Mahon’s fêted poem ‘A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford’ creates a mysterious inner world which seems to exist outside time. A shed may just be a place to keep the lawnmower, or it may be somewhere to escape to in order to write or paint. Sometimes it’s a haven in which to daydream when the house is full of noise and bustle. Elsewhere it’s:
A sea-side arbour, a garden shanty,
knocked together out of driftwood and furnished
with a beat-up sofa…
  from ‘Arbour’ by Kathleen Jamie

This enchanting selection leads the reader quietly into private worlds and makes the perfect gift for every shed-lover.
Poems by Fleur Adcock, Alison Brackenbury, John Greening, Stuart Henson, Kathleen Jamie, Derek Mahon, John McAuliffe, MR Peacocke, Carol Rumens, Vernon Scannell. Cover illustration by David&Rews.

http://www.candlestickpress.co.uk/pamphlet/ten-poems-about-sheds/


 

 

 
   

Selected Poems of Geoffrey Grigson (ed. John Greening)
(Greenwich Exchange, 2017)

Geoffrey Grigson (1905-1985) was for many years a vital figure in the literary life of Britain. A notoriously unsparing reviewer, he edited the magazine New Verse (which brought Auden and other writers of the 1930s to prominence) and found popularity with his writings about the countryside and several wonderful anthologies. For much of his life he was writing his own poetry too, but it was only when he was in his sixties that it attracted much attention, and since his death it has largely been overlooked. This new Selected Poems ranges from his debut 1939 collection and the work of the 1940s and 1950s (long unavailable) through to the award-winning late volumes and the very last poem he wrote, in September 1985. Love lyrics, satires, landscapes, sketches of rural life, autobiographical pieces - these poems sharp, economical, by turnhave a freshness and clarity of focus rare among contemporary poets. They also amount to a fully rounded portrait of this controversial Cornishman: a seventh son, who lost all six brothers before he was middle-aged; who was married three times (finally to the cookery writer, Jane Grigson); who rubbed shoulders with the famous poets and artists of his day; who was quintessentially English, yet devoted to France and the idea of Europe; who lived through two world wars and many more purely literary feuds.Now the smoke has had time to clear, what remains is Geoffrey Grigson's poetry - by turns lyrical or barbed, restlessly attentive to the physical world, its delights and its terrors.

http://www.greenex.co.uk/ge_record_detail.asp?ID=177

Review of Grigson’s Selected Poems by Martyn Crucefix:
https://martyncrucefix.com/tag/geoffrey-grigson/

 

 

 

 
   

Threading a Dream: a Poet on the Nile
(Gatehouse, 2017)

Threading a Dream is a journey in prose and verse to southernmost Egypt, that 'Black Land' where the dead were known as 'Westerners'. In 1979,  the Greenings went to live in Aswan for two years. Newly married, childless, ready for adventure, they were prepared (with a smattering of colloquial Arabic) to thread the country’s mysteries, its contradictions, troubles, and delights, its sights and synchronicities. It was an extraordinary place, a unique time, and as this memoir describes, it was where the poet began to find a voice. In this new memoir, poems from thirty-five years, notably from Westerners (1982), are interwoven with prose chapters exploring the light and dark of life in Upper Egypt during the last days of Sadat. There are also snippets from plays, along with extracts from The Tutankhamun Variations and other Egypt-themed volumes such as Omm Sety  The story of Threading a Dream picks up several unexpected threads. Some are uncanny, even mystical, and more than a few are political, but in the end this is a memoir is about one English writer’s personal Arab Spring.

‘Greening is a disarming and engaging guide ... I enjoyed Threading a Dream a great deal’ (Andrew Hadfield, PN Review).

‘Inspiring, enlightening and educational ... a wealth of detail and anecdote, recounted with humour and insight’ (Dawn Wood, DURA)

The memoir features illustrations by Rosie Greening

 

 

 

 

Threading a Dream is available from Gatehouse Press at the link below, £10.
http://www.gatehousepress.com/shop/collections/threading-a-dream/
A book of ‘postcard sonnets’ written in collaboration with Stuart Henson is forthcoming from Red Squirrel Press in 2020
You can hear a series of talks recorded for the RLF at
https://www.rlf.org.uk/fellowships/john-greening/
Keep track of current projects:
https://www.facebook.com/john.greening.10
https://twitter.com/GreeningPoet

 

 

 

 

  Other Poetry Books


 

 

 

john greening heath poetry review and buy  

Heath (2016, Nine Arches)
 

Heath – published in June 2016 by Nine Arches ( http://www.ninearchespress.com/) – is a collaboration with the eminent poet Penelope Shuttle (http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/category/penelope-shuttle). John and Penelope were brought up on opposite sides of what was once the most dangerous ten square miles in England, Hounslow Heath – now Heathrow Airport. In the introduction to this substantial work, John writes:

 

"I have written many times about my Hounslow childhood: those weird groans and howls that would rise at night from beyond the hawthorn hedge at the bottom of our garden, when engines were being tested; the nightflights coming uncomfortably near to our chimney as I lay in bed (the roof was later ripped off by the vortex from one that came too close). The rhythm of life near Heathrow meant that conversations and even lessons at school had to pause for the planes. I loved them, of course, and adored the airport, where I would play on the lifts and the fruit machines. I was even vaguely aware of the significance of Heston—where we used to go for the swings or a haircut—as the place where Mr Chamberlain returned from Munich waving his piece of paper. Penny and I had often reminisced about the area. But it was only on a visit to Falmouth in February 2014, where I had been reading from To the War Poets, with poems such as 'Heath Row' and 'Middlesex', that her own new preoccupation with London became clear. Indeed, her 2014 chapbook, In the Snowy Air, is something of a love song to the city. I think it may have been my suggestion, but anyway the subject came up after my reading: we should collaborate on something about the Heath... I went back to Cambridgeshire and started writing: the first three poems, which are as they now appear in the book (and as they were published in PN Review), and which carry at least some sense of the two of us setting out on an unknown journey, not without memories of Macbeth and Banquo making their own heathen way. That was it. And there really was a feeling that this was something new, untried, just out of reach: exactly the right conditions for satisfactory poetry. Soon Penny was responding. And very quickly we were picking up on each other's obsessions, even if we never quite abandoned our own preferred styles: mine a longer, denser line, Penny's shorter, freer, with her characteristic light touch. Before long there was collaboration at a deeper level, with Cornwall's 'As if' being answered by East Anglia's 'If as', for example, and the echoing of one poem by another meant that the sequence began to take shape as a book. By the end, we were even rewriting each other's verses and at least two of the poems here are co-written. It was an invigorating experience, although not unique: in 1988, Philip Gross and Sylvia Kantaris had produced something rich and strange in The Air-Mines of Mistila, for example, and that was certainly at the back of my mind, one of several literary milestones that reassured me we were not entirely lost, that we would emerge safely on the far side – as we have."

 

 

Click here to learn about upcoming public readings.

 

 

 

 

  john greening nebamuns tomb  

Edward Blunden’s Undertones of War

Edmund Blunden (1896-1974) was one of the youngest of the war poets, enlisting straight from school to find himself in some of the Western Front’s most notorious hot-spots. His prose memoir, written in a rich, allusive vein, full of anecdote and human interest,  is unique for its quiet authority and for the potency of its dream-like narrative. Once we accept the archaic conventions and catch the tone – which can be by turns horrifying or hilarious – Undertones of War gradually reveals itself as a masterpiece. It is clear why it has remained in print since it first appeared in 1928.

This new edition not only offers the original unrevised version of the prose narrative, written at white heat when Blunden was teaching in Japan and had no access to his notes, but provides a great deal of supplementary material never before gathered together. Blunden’s ‘Preliminary’  expresses the lifelong compulsion he felt ‘to go over the ground again’ and for half a century he prepared new prefaces, added annotations. All those prefaces and a wide selection of his commentaries are included here – marginalia from friends’ first editions, remarks in letters,  extracts from later essays and a substantial part of his war diary. John Greening  has provided a scholarly introduction discussing the bibliographical and historical background, and  brings his poet’s eye to a much expanded (and more representative) selection of Blunden’s war poetry.  For the first time we can see the poet Blunden as the major figure he was. For the first time, too, Undertones has an index and the chapters are given clear headings, events placed within the chronology of the war.

Blunden had always hoped for a properly illustrated edition of the work, and kept a folder full of possible pictures. The editor, with the Blunden family’s help, has selected some of the best of them .

For further information, visit:

http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780198716617.do

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John Greening and Margi Blunden discuss the war poet’s work on Cambridge 105 radio: http://cambridge105.fm/book-night-09-01-2016/

 

 

 

 

john greening nebamuns tomb
Launch of Nebamun's Tomb
john greening nebamuns tomb

To order please follow this link

 

Nebamun's Tomb (2016)
 

The poems in this pamphlet were written after visiting the British Museum to see their newly revived Egyptian collection, in particular the paintings from the tomb of an accountant called Nebamun. These remarkable works of art, dating from around 1350 BC, were 'removed' and sold to the museum by the British consul-general in Egypt, Henry Salt (1780–1827), a keen and well-placed collector of antiquities. My own interest in Egypt began rather later, between 1979 and 1981, when my wife and I were volunteer teachers in Aswan, an experience which resulted in Westerners (Hippopotamus Press, 1982), my first collection.

 

Sally Evans, reviewing Nebamun's Tomb and the Rack Press pamphlets https://keeppoemsalivereviews.wordpress.com/2016/01/

 

‘Simply designed with modest runs of 150 copies, they are a good buy at £5 each and perhaps buyers will trust Rack Press enough to buy them all. Then they’ll find they have favourites. Mine (of these 4) is John Greening’s Nebamun’s Tomb. Perhaps this is hard on the others because John Greening is easily the most considerable and most published of these writers. He has (in the credits) the best publications list and awards list and the least extravagant claims from supporters.  Additionally his work here has a theme, which is somewhere we are definitely going in poetry.  His poems are highly re-readable. They don’t tell you enough, but get you interested in old Salt and the Egyptian relics in the British Museum. It’s a sequence of 11 shortish, vari-form and image-filled poems, linking London and Egypt. It is, imo, the best title and has the best subject matter of the four.’

 

Available from http://rackpress.blogspot.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

john greening Accompanied Voices

To order please follow this link

 

Accompanied Voices (2015)
 

ACCOMPANIED VOICES is a unique book: not only is it a highly readable anthology of some of the most memorable and accessible international writing about classical music, and a moving commentary by one set of practising artists on the work of another. It is also something of a chronological guide to the great composers, following the story of western music in the language which comes closest to music itself – poetry. 

Readers unaccustomed to poetry anthologies will find in ACCOMPANIED VOICES the same pleasure that they might find in simply putting on a CD and listening. Every page brings something unexpected or illuminating, funny or heartbreaking. Here we begin to realise just how much Ted Hughes or R.S.Thomas took from Beethoven,  or what Bach meant to First World War veteran Ivor Gurney or Holocaust survivor Lotte Kramer. We meet poets who have long been exploring classical music (Peter Porter, John Fuller) or are musicians themselves (Fiona Sampson, Gwen Harwood). We hear Ronald Duncan on Britten, George Mackay Brown on Peter Maxwell Davies. But there is Norman Nicholson on Grieg, too, Jo Shapcott on Schoenberg, Dannie Abse on Wagner; the poetry of a former Archbishop as well as that of a former Poet Laureate. 

Poet and music lover John Greening adds a substantial introduction and detailed notes on the work of well over a hundred distinguished poets and their subjects.

Further details:
http://www.boydellandbrewer.com/store/viewItem.asp?idProduct=14707

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To order please follow this
link
 

Knot (2013, Worple Press)
 

Knot is a miniature masterpiece’ (Warwick Review) - KNOT Review
The Hawthornden sequence of Elizabethan verse letters, Knot,  is now available direct from Worple Press
http://www.worplepress.com/ or from any online bookshop.
Based on the design of a seventeenth-century knot garden, Knot makes consort music with the poets of Elizabethan England. Sonnets and verse letters are woven around a journal of life in a twenty-first century writers' retreat (Hawthornden Castle) and a prose allegory of Ben Jonson’s famous walk from London to Scotland to visit William Drummond. The collection concludes with a witty modern masque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To order please follow this link

 

To the War Poets (2013, Oxford Poets/Carcanet)

In November 2013, John Greening’s major collection To the War Poets appeared from OxfordPoets (Carcanet):

To the War Poets review

http://www.carcanet.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?product=9781906188085

As we approach the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, a modern poet sends dispatches across the decades, hoping to catch strains of a forgotten Englishness – but offering an alternative perspective too, in his translations from Heym, Trakl, Stadler, Stramm. Verse letters to the war poets are interwoven with other pieces in which the sounds of conflict are never far away: the Sutton Hoo ship burial is discovered weeks before the Second World War, Heathrow is shut down by security forces in 2006. A childhood of planes and trains and bicycles is haunted by gibbet and blitz and holocaust. There are troubled echoes of Empire (Egypt and Zanzibar, personally significant places for the poet); and amid the gentle landscapes of middle England there is still a distant rumbling: the pacifist Waldo Williams trapped in war-time Huntingdonshire, Glenn Miller’s final concert in a Bedfordshire village.
Carcanet's 2013 catalogue can now be read at the link below. To the War Poets , with a cover by St Neots artist Richard Walker, is featured on page 26.
http://issuu.com/carcanetpress/docs/carcanet_catalogue_2013_final/1
Further reviews of To the War Poets:

http://www.pnreview.co.uk/cgi-bin/scribe?item_id=9178

http://www.manchestersalon.org.uk/to-the-war-poets-by-john-greening.html

 

 

 
 

List of earlier collections:

To read reviews of The Home Key or Omm Sety please click on book cover

or for information about earlier collections please click here

 
         
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Hunts: Poems 1979-2009 consists of highlights from John Greening’s earlier eleven collections, together with about sixty new or uncollected poems.  It includes many of the longer poems from earlier books, together with the complete ‘Hunts’ trilogy of eclogues, elegies and nocturnes written over the last quarter of a century.  It is available from Central Books, the publisher Greenwich Exchange, or from any on-line bookshop such as Amazon. Glyn Pursglove wrote in Acumen (May 2009) : ‘Since the end of the 1970s, John Greening has steadily established himself a significant presence in contemporary English poetry...Beyond the admirable craftsmanship that characterises almost all of his work, one of Greening’s great strengths is his historical imagination... Greening’s major sequences are splendid examples of the poetry of place, extended reflections upon the individual’s place in his community, upon place as the creator (and creation) of individuals, full of specifics, but never merely parochial... There is much here to enjoy and admire in the work of a serious (but never excessively solemn) poet, who cares about both ‘facts’ and ideas and makes his poetry out of the interpenetration of the two.’

 

Please follow this link to a review of Hunts Poems www.saltpublishing.com/horizon/issues/03

 
  To order please follow this link      
  Earlier poetry collections, including Nightflights (New and Selected poems): please click here  
         
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ICELAND SPAR (2008, Shoestring Press)

John Greening writes: "ICELAND SPARfocuses entirely on Iceland rather in the way that my first collection was solely about Egypt.  The deserts of this book are those of the lava-plains, but also the emotional aridity of a teenage Second World War RAF recruit, stranded in Akureyri a long way from his girlfriend back in London, enduring the Blitz.  The recruit is my father, who spent much of the war as a wireless operator in Iceland; the girlfriend is my mother.  But many of these poems are a response to the landscape of Iceland during my first visit there in 2001, following a generous grant from the Society of Authors.  I tried to track down the site of my father’s wireless hut and rekindled an enthusiasm for Old Norse (which I studied at university) and the mythology of the Northmen. The book includes a version of one of the Edda, ‘Voluspa’ (published in Modern Poetry in Translation) a vision of the end of the world, which I finished just a few days before 9/11 and consequently found myself rereading with an entirely new and contemporary slant."

Click here to read an extended review of Iceland Spar (‘Double Vision’ by Alan Gould)  in the October 08 issue of Australian magazine, Quadrant: at www.quadrant.org.au

 
  To order follow this link      
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The Home Key (2003, Shoestring Press)

John Greening’s tenth collection, The Home Key, includes the Bridport prize poem, a sequence commissioned by the Eden Project and a song cycle performed at the Wigmore Hall.

‘Musical, spatial and geographical in its suggestiveness...here is an eye that sees the incandescent wonder of the world’ (Acumen). ‘Rich and rewarding writing’ (Eddie Wainwright in Envoi).

 ‘A worthy Bridport winner’ (London Magazine).

 
  To order follow this link      
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Omm Sety (2001, Shoestring Press, Limited Edition)

Omm Sety is a narrative poem, which tells the true story of Englishwoman Dorothy Eady, who believed that in a former life she had been the mistress of Pharaoh Sety 1.  This dramatic poem weaves the voices of Eady and Sety with memories of the poet's own years in Egypt during a period when Omm Sety was still living in the temple at Abydos.

 
  To order follow this link      
 

 

 CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS OF ALL EIGHT EARLIER POETRY COLLECTIONS 

 

 

 

 

Online Reviews, Articles and Talks

 

 

 

At the start of 2016 John led a well-received discussion on the T.S.Eliot Prize shortlist at London’s Southbank Centre: these are the transcripts of his ten mini-talks:
http://campus.poetryschool.com/t-s-eliot-prize-deep-reading/
 
A piece about the technology of writing for the RLF:
https://www.rlf.org.uk/showcase/iceboxes-rollerballs-and-tweets/

A new essay on Edwin Muir for Battersea Review:
http://thebatterseareview.com/critical-prose/247-greening-muir

An article for Carcanet about Edmund Blunden:
http://carcanetblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/the-shepherds-farewell-john-greening-on.html  

Along with interviews for Acumen and Iota magazines, there is also one at
http://stanzapoetry.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/conversations-with-the-dead-john-greening-on-war-poetry/ 

See also: https://idontcallmyselfapoet.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/john-greening/

John’s Guardian obituary of the Irish poet Dennis O'Driscoll can also still be found http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jan/04/dennis-odriscoll.

Recently, John reviewed an outstanding Icelandic poet for the European Literature Network
http://www.eurolitnetwork.com/%e2%80%8erivetingreviews-john-greening-reviews-drapa-a-reykjavik-murder-mystery-by-gerdur-kristnytr/