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), an experience
which led to the recent collaboration with Penelope Shuttle and the
2016 collection, Heath. 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. He revisits this time in the 2017 memoir, THREADING A DREAM. 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 for many years he
taught English 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. Later, John would meet Heaney at Little Gidding,
where the conversation was chiefly about our mutual friend, the late Dennis O’Driscoll. He writes about this in a forthcoming article for the RLF online journal, Collected (https://www.rlf.org.uk/fellowships/john-greening/)
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.
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 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 POETRY MASTERCLASS. A book about American poetry since 1963 remains unpublished. 2017 saw publication of his Greenwich Exchange edition of Geoffrey Grigson’s SELECTED POEMS.
His encyclopaedic anthology of poems about composers, Accompanied Voices, appeared from Boydell Press in 2015, the same year as his landmark OUP edition of the First World War memoir, Undertones of War, which he was invited to edit by the daughter of the poet Edmund Blunden.
He lectured on Watkins at the 1999 Dylan Thomas Festival (and visited again in 2014), 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, where he also read with Penelope Shuttle in 2016, launching their collaboration, Heath. John Greening has appeared at many major poetry festivals including StAnza, Cheltenham, Torbay (he judged the last Torbay competition). In 2014 he shared the platform with Sir Andrew Motion, Sasha Dugdale and Stephen Romer at Kings Place, London, in the Poet in the City series, reading his translations from German war poets. In the same year the Rylands Library in Manchester exhibited a copy of To the War Poets alongside a corrected typescript of his verse letter to Edward Thomas as part of their First World War commemoration.
In 2015 John Greening (along with Glyn Maxwell and other poets) was commissioned by Shakespeare’s Globe to write poems in response to John Donne and George Herbert at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. These he read on stage alongside actors Tim Pigott-Smith, Miranda Raison, Alex Jennings, Hattie Morahan. (http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/theatre/whats-on/concerts-by-candlelight/the-voice-and-the-echo). He was recently commissioned by Roderick Williams to write poems to accompany Schubert’s Schwanengesang. Jenny Agutter read them at the Globe and in New York. Subsequently, he provided texts for the composer Cecilia McDowall, which Williams has performed at the Middle Temple and around the country. His song-cycle, ‘Falls’ to music by Paul Mottram was premiered by the Dunedin Consort at the Wigmore Hall in June 2000, revived by the NYGB at Snape Maltings in 2015, and has been on tour in Scotland and Canada.
In 2015 John Greening was invited to chair the Poetry School’s T.S.Eliot Prize Preview event at London’s Southbank Centre. For the past twelve years he has been asked by the Society of Authors to judge the Eric Gregory Awards for poets under thirty. In October 2015, he became Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge for two years, and was then a lector for the RLF as part of their Reading Round scheme, while conducting author audio interviews for their Writers Aloud podcast. He continues to give readings and lectures, on Edmund Blunden for the Harry Ransom Center, Texas in December 2017 (the lecture can be heard at https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/britishstudies/Lectures/Audio-Recordings.php.) and at Baylor University (the Charles G.Smith lecture) and Ohio University (Authors at Alden) in November 2018. He also read at the launch of Dennis O’Driscoll’s Collected Poems in Dublin – see https://goo.gl/photos/vrQqioSBh5jDm1XL9.
Other recent books include The Silence, his 2019 Carcanet collection which features a long poem about Sibelius, the sonnet cycle Europa’s Flight (New Walk) and a fine press limited edition, Achill Island Tagebuch. (Redfoxpress). Publications in 2020-21 were Vapour Trails: Reviews and Essays on Poetry, a sonnet collaboration with Stuart Henson, a Postcard to, the pamphlets Moments Musicaux and The Giddings and an edition of Iain Crichton Smith’s poetry: Deer on the High Hills (Carcanet, 2021). A groundbreaking anthology has just appeared from Liverpool University Press, coedited with Kevin Gardner: Hollow Palaces: an Anthology of Modern Country House Poems. 2022 saw publication of Omniscience, a science-themed pamphlet from Broken Sleep, and later in the year a selection of John Greening’s translations of Goethe: Nightwalker’s Song (Arc Publications). In March 2023, John Greening’s American Selected Poems appeared from Baylor University Press. The Interpretation of Owls: Selected Poems 1977-2022 has been edited by Kevin J.Gardner with whom the poet is also jointly editing a new anthology of poems about Englishness. John Greening’s book of linked essays, A High Calling, is published by Broken Sleep in June 2023.
Further details can be found at Wikipedia: John Greening (poet) - Wikipedia
This is a recent interview:
For the RLF he has recorded several short talks including the following on ‘Why I Write’:
Recent reviews for the Times Literary Supplement can be found at https://www.the-tls.co.uk,
See John Greening’s profile: https://www.rlf.org.uk/fellowships/john-greening/
John Greening In Conversation with Penelope Shuttle in Camelford, 2011
For queries about readings, workshops, lectures, please email email@example.com