Biography of John Hegley
John Hegley is an English performance poet, comedian, musician and songwriter.
He was born in the Newington Green area of Islington, London, England, into a Roman Catholic household. He was brought up in Luton and Bristol. After school he worked as a bus conductor and civil servant before attending the University of Bradford, where he gained a B.Sc. in European Literature and the History of Ideas and Sociology. Hegley has French ancestry (his father's name was René) and claims he is descended from the composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. His paternal grandmother was a dancer with the Folies Bergère.
Hegley began his performing career at London's Comedy Store in 1980, and received national exposure when he appeared with his backing band the Popticians on Carrott's Lib in 1983, and recorded two sessions for John Peel in 1983 and 1984. Hegley published his first poetry collection, Visions of the Bone Idol (Poems about Dogs and Glasses), pieces from which were later incorporated into Glad to Wear Glasses, in 1984. Hegley has written a number of collections of poetry, ranging from the surreal through the humorous to the personal and emotional. There are a number of recurring themes in his poems, notably glasses, dogs and reminiscences of his childhood in Luton.
He was presenter of the Border Television series Word of Mouth - in which numerous contemporary poets performed their work - in 1990, and the BBC radio series Hearing with Hegley from 1996 to 1999. His other television appearances include Wogan and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. In 1998, Hegley's poem "Malcolm" came second in a BBC survey to find Britain's most popular comic poem. In 1999 he starred in a Simon Callow-directed revival of the musical The Pajama Game in London's West End. Hegley frequently performs live and is a regular at the Edinburgh Festival. His stage act includes elements of poetry, music (he plays the mandolin and is often accompanied by a double bassist), comedy and Luton Town Football Club. He also likes to utilise audience participation in his shows, for example by having a dog drawing competition during the interval, or by asking his audience to try writing poetry themselves.
The University of Luton awarded him an honorary LL.D. in 2000, and he has also led creative writing courses at the university.
Hegley launched "Warning: May Contain Nuts", a project using comedy to increase awareness of mental illness. He performed these shows in 2010 with other performers, including comic Mackenzie Taylor, talking about mental illness.
John Hegley's Works:
Visions of the Bone Idol (Poems about Dogs and Glasses) illustrated by Linda Leatherbarrow (Little Bird Press 1984)
The Brother-in-Law and Other Animals (Down the Publishing Company 1986)
Poems for Pleasure (Hamlyn 1989)
Glad to Wear Glasses (glad to have ears) illustrated by Linda Leatherbarrow (Andre Deutsch 1990)
Can I Come Down Now, Dad? (Methuen 1991)
Five Sugars, Please (Methuen 1993)
These Were Your Father's (Methuen 1994)
Love Cuts (Methuen 1995)
The Family Pack (Methuen 1997: incorporating The Brother-in-Law and Other Animals, Can I Come Down Now, Dad? and These Were Your Father's)
Beyond our Kennel (Methuen 1998)
Dog (Methuen 2000)
My Dog is a Carrot (Walker Books 2002)
The Sound of Paint Drying (Methuen 2003)
Sit-Down Comedy (contributor to anthology, ed Malcolm Hardee & John Fleming) Ebury Press/Random House, 2003.
Uncut Confetti (Methuen 2006)
The Ropes: Poems To Hold On To (editor with Sophie Hannah) (Diamond Twig 2008)
The Adventures of Monsieur Robinet (Donut Press 2009)
Spare Pear/Mobile Home (1984) Double A-sided single of Peel session recordings, with the Popticians
I Saw My Dinner On TV (1988) Single with the Popticians
Saint and Blurry (1993) Poems and music
Hearing with Hegley (1996) BBC audio-cassette taken from the radio series of the same name
Family Favourites (2006) Poems and music
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John Hegley Poems
hello amoeba I wish you were my pet but you're not really big enough to be seen by the vet are you? you're a little blob of jelly
Love cuts love juts out and you walk right into it.
Lent, is meant to be spent fasting, In rememberance of the Lord, Lasting six weeks without a decent meal, Six weeks in the desert,
Uncle And Auntie
my auntie gives me a colouring book and crayons I begin to colour after a while auntie leans over and says you've gone over the lines
A Comparison Between Logs And Dogs
Love Poem By My Dog
the doors open everyone comes out everyone is ready for fireworks
The donkey ride the road of palms the garden path the open arms,
The Death Of A Scoutmaster
how I remember the old scoutmaster nobody could start a camp-fire faster I can see the old scoutmaster in the old scout hut saying always carry a plaster
Deep In Shallow Waters
Relieving myself in the Mediterranean it occurs to me that some of my wee has become part of the wider sea which triggers thoughts of individuals
I believe this society to be deeply keen to enforce distinctions of gender fearful of course
My Father's Footwear
Once, a skinhead in my class came round my house in his Doctor Martens and passing the rubber galoshes which my dad wore
One playtime, staying out of the rain, His heart sank, Someone sniffed his seat, And said it stank, A ritual followed,
Very Bad Dog
I took Rover over to the park the other day I met another bloke with another dog on the way his dog was an alsation my dog was not
I believe this society to be
deeply keen to enforce
distinctions of gender
fearful of course
of cheerful androgyny.
It starts with the naming of progeny.
Apart from a few anomalous instances
there are separate names for either sex:
"If it's a boy we'll call him Tex