B.A. (Hull), M.A., Ph.D (Leeds)

Image of John Goodby

Professor John Goodby 
B.A. (Hull), M.A., Ph.D (Leeds)
Tel: 01792 205678 ext. 4312 
Fax: 01792 295761
Keir Hardie Rm 224

I did my doctoral research, on contemporary Irish poetry, at the University of Leeds (1983-6). After completing it, I taught there for two years before moving to UCC (University College Cork) in 1990. In 1994 I returned to the UK and Swansea.  From the beginning of my career I have taught a wide range of special interest courses, ranging from Aspects of Poetics to Marxist Literary Theory and Restoration Writing. At present I teach modules on Californian writing, John Keats and Dylan Thomas, and contribute to the Lyric Poetry and Romantics, Revolutionaries and Realists core courses, as well as convening the Modernism and Modernity core course.  For the M.A. Diversities in Contemporary Writing, I offer Writing the Troubles: Northern Irish Literature 1968-1993, and Mid-Century Irish Poetry.  My chief administrative duties are as the English Department’s Postgraduate Convenor.

The time spent in Cork expanded my sense of modern Irish poetry beyond the standard, rather restrictive canon, and led me to write not only on Muldoon (1994), Heaney (2001), and Kavanagh (2008), but also on lesser-known poets such as Eugene Watters (1999), Trevor Joyce (2003), and Austin Clarke (2003). This also lay behind Colonies of Belief, the special Irish issue of the English experimental poetry journal Angel Exhaust, which I co-edited with Maurice Scully in 1999. Thus, my main publication to date, Irish poetry since 1950: from stillness into history (MUP, 2000), attempts to provide a critical history of Irish poetry which, while devoting most space to the most critically attended-to poets, also finds room for many other good, yet neglected, figures, among them Thomas MacGreevy, Brian Coffey, Patrick Galvin, Michael Hartnett, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Thomas McCarthy. In some cases these accounts remain the only critical discussion of the poets’ work. Irish poetry since 1950 was well and widely reviewed (in TLS, Bullán, Notes & Queries and elsewhere), and sold out in 2007. A second edition is currently being contemplated.

In 1998-2001 I was a member of the Axial Writing project, part of the Oxford-based ESRC-funded Transnational Communities Programme. This explored the effects of globalisation on cultural production; as a result I became interested in general literary-cultural issues. The Essential Guide to Irish Studies (2003) was one outcome of this, as was an interest in recent Irish fiction, reflected in pieces on Glenn Patterson (1999) and Patrick McGinley (2006). Another was a refocussing of attention on the place where I had been living for several years, Swansea; this took the form of an interest in the city’s most famous son, Dylan Thomas.  It seemed to me that Thomas criticism had more or less stood still since 1970, and that he was badly in need of attention. In 1998 I organised a conference, Under the Spelling Wall, which engineered the first encounter between theory and Thomas’s work. From it came a chapter for Locations of Literary Modernism (2000), edited by Alex Davis and Lee Jenkins, in which I tried to read Thomas as a hybrid modernist rather than as a belated Romantic, and Dylan Thomas: A New Casebook (2001) (this included, among other things, the first feminist reading of Thomas’s work). I also began work on a monograph on Thomas’s poetry, Work of words: re-reading Dylan Thomas, completed on AHRC-funded leave in 2005-06. This study, due to appear in 2008, reads Thomas as a poet who parodically fused High Modernism disjunctiveness and New Country formalism, blending the ‘depth’ and ‘surface’ models these are taken to represent. It contains an introductory overview of the discourses by which criticism of Thomas has been shaped, and chapters on politics, language, the body, the Gothic and Welsh monstrosity, war, and Cold War pastoral, and a conclusion assessing the buried  presence of Thomas within contemporary poetry. My future Dylan Thomas projects, which include a Bibliography, a translation web, and a complete annotated edition of the poems, aim to build on this by making Thomas relevant to the twenty-first century.

Alongside my academic work, I have a parallel life as a poet and a translator of poetry. Since winning a major prize in the Arvon / Observer competition of 1989-90, and being included in Faber’s Poetry Introduction 8 (1993), I have been published in most leading British poetry journals, including Poetry Review, London Magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Wales, Poetry London, The Warwick Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Stand, Angel Exhaust and even (once) The Independent. A first collection, A Birmingham Yank, was published by Arc in 1998: Sean O’Brien’s review claimed ‘at once lush and abrasive ... Goodby’s music can at moments be as orotund as Stevens and as abrupt as Les Murray’; Ian Duhig declared ‘[Goodby] loves language and makes it fizz, crackle, thunder and sing throughout this collection, which is … a joy to read and hear as well as think about’. A second collection, The True Prize, is forthcoming from Arc in 2008-09. A poem written for that book, ‘The Uncles’, was the £5,000 first prize winner in the Cardiff International poetry competition in 2006, and another, ‘In Brick’, was a prizewinner in the 2007 Keats-Shelley Memorial Association tenth annual poetry competition. In a more experimental vein, uncaged sea is a Cageian mesostic rewriting of Dylan Thomas’s Collected Poems 1934-1952. This piece has been irregularly performed by Boiled String, a troupe initially set up to produce my own work, but which now also performs adapted works by neglected Welsh poets such as David Jones, Lynette Roberts and Glyn Jones (see the Writers List on the Welsh Academi website).

My translations are Heine’s Deutschland: Ein Wintermärchen / Germany: A Winter’s Tale (Smokestack Press, 2005), and, with Tom Cheesman, the Algerian poet Soleiman Adel Guémar’s État d’Urgence / State of Emergency (2007), which was awarded an English P.E.N. Writers in Translation grant of £1,000.  Excerpts from both the Heine and the Guémar appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation in 1997 and 2006. I have also recently selected, edited and annotated the first anthology of translations of Irish women’s poetry into Spanish, in collaboration with the Cuban / American-Irish poet Carlota Caulfield; this is due to be published in January 2008. I am currently completing a cut-up sonnet sequence, Illennium, and a translation of the prose poems of Pierre Reverdy.

I have successfully supervised five Ph.D.s to completion (on Muldoon; MacNeice and Dylan Thomas; Edward Kamau Brathwaite; W. B. Yeats, Vernon Watkins and Thomas; T. S. Eliot and Heidegger), part-supervised two others (on Bruno and Elizabethan poetry, and Woolf), and I am currently supervising four others (on psycho-linguistic approaches to Thomas’s early work; Tom McIntyre; French translations of Thomas; and ‘Altarwise by owl-light’). I would be happy to consider supervising research on most aspects of twentieth century writing (poetry and fiction) and creative writing (poetry only).


Image of the book  

Praise for uncaged sea

As readers of his restlessly inventive poetry know, John Goodby’s distinctive intelligence asserts itself in unexpected, self-effacing ways—through other voices, formal games and, in the case of uncaged sea, a faithful and yet mischievous (you might say faithfully subversive) immersion in another poet’s words. What he produces by his close attention and responsiveness to the stray energies of language is an engaging, addictive performance, whether enacted in sound and spoken word on stage or in the imaginative ‘translation’ of that experience to print. The version laid out on the page is a performance of another kind, with the same teasing / enticing effect of continuity and discontinuity in a carefully unstable balance—giving the reader space both to think and enjoy, a sense of joining in the game. —Philip Gross 

Immigrant (fox-skin cap / embroidered cloak) scholiast (Susan Howe)

A cloak of rags and patches showing a lost text by glimpses. Recurring segments of spine around which lines whirl without fastening. A moth's wing pattern through which the lost and beloved object is recovered. A sheer glow on which signal multiplies like bacteria on fruit.   

—Andrew Duncan

John Goodby's remarkably sustained uncaged sea  whips you up into a state where you want to 'smother the sweet haggard in the glass'. What can one say of such a 'tusked ramshackling' work? All I could say after reading it was: 'like dramatic sea I have been a ball of lakes.' A prodigious unconscionable downright desperate poem!  
—John Hartley Williams

Dylan Thomas was always near the edge.  The reworkings by John Goodby and Boiled String show just how close. This is Thomas thrust into the post-modern maelstrom, pulled by process, mashed by manipulation and riveted by rearrangement.  Down here in the micro-memes that Goodby uncovers are some twenty-first century rockets set-off unknowingly by Wales' best-known twentieth century master.  

—Peter Finch