McGough, Roger 1937-
McGOUGH, Roger 1937-
PERSONAL: Born November 9, 1937, in Liverpool, England; son of Roger Francis (a docker) and Mary (McGarry) McGough; married Thelma Monaghan, 1970 (divorced, 1980); married Hilary Clough, December, 1986; children: (first marriage) Finn, Tom;
(second marriage) Matthew, Isabel. Education: University of Hull, B.A., 1957, certificate in education, 1960. Religion: Roman Catholic.
ADDRESSES: Home—70 Portobello Rd., London W11 3DL, England. Agent—Peters, Fraser, & Dunlop, Drury House, 3443 Russell St., London WC2B 5HA, England.
CAREER: Poet, playwright, and educator. Teacher in Liverpool, England, 1960-62; assistant lecturer at technical college in Liverpool, 1962-64; member of Scaffold (music and poetry group), 1964-75; Liverpool College of Art, Liverpool, lecturer in liberal studies, 1969-70; Loughborough University of Technology, Loughborough, England, fellow in poetry, 1973-75; member of Grimms (music and poetry group), 1973-75; Thames Valley University, honorary professor, 1993; University of Hamburg, writer-in-residence, 1994; John Moores University, Liverpool, fellow, 1999.
MEMBER: Songwriters Guild, Poetry Society (executive member of council, 1990-94), Equity, Chelsea Arts Club (trustee).
AWARDS, HONORS: Signal magazine award, 1984; British Association of Film and Television Arts Award, 1985, for television play; Royal Society of Arts Award for The Elements; named Honorary Professor, Thames Valley University, 1993; Order of the British Empire, 1997.
(With Adrian Henri and Brian Patten) The MerseySound: Penguin Modern Poets Ten, Penguin (Baltimore, MD), 1967.
Watchwords, J. Cape (London, England), 1969, new edition, 1972, Merrimack Book Service (New York, NY), 1979.
After the Merrymaking, J. Cape (London, England), 1971, Merrimack Book Service (New York, NY), 1979.
Out of Sequence, Turret Books (London, England), 1973.
Gig, J. Cape (London, England), 1973, Merrimack Book Service (New York, NY), 1979.
Sporting Relations, Eyre Methuen (London, England), 1974.
In the Glassroom, J. Cape (London, England), 1976, Merrimack Book Service (New York, NY), 1979.
Summer with Monika (also see below), illustrated by Peter Blake, Deutsch (London, England), 1978, reprinted, Penguin (Harmondsworth, England), 1992.
Holiday on Death Row, J. Cape (London, England), 1979.
Unlucky for Some, Bernard Stone, 1981.
Waving at Trains, J. Cape (London, England), 1982.
(With Adrian Henri and Brian Patten) New Volume, Penguin (New York, NY), 1983.
Melting into the Foreground, Viking (London, England), 1986.
Selected Poems, 1967-1987, J. Cape (London, England), 1990.
Defying Gravity, Viking (London, England), 1992.
Everyday Eclipses, Viking (London, England), 2002.
Mr. Noselighter, Deutsch (London, England), 1976.
You Tell Me, Puffin (London, England), 1981.
Sky in the Pie, Kestrel (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England), 1983.
Noah's Ark, Collins (London, England), 1986.
Nailing the Shadow, Viking Penguin (New York, NY), 1987.
An Imaginary Menagerie, Viking Kestrel (London, England), 1988.
Helen Highwater, Viking Kestrel (London, England), 1989.
Pillow Talk, Viking (London, England), 1990.
My Dad's a Fire Eater, Puffin (London, England), 1992.
Lucky, Viking (London, England), 1993.
(Editor) Ring of Words, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1999.
Good Enough to Eat, Puffin (London, England), 2002.
What on Earth Can It Be?, illustrated by Linda Monks, Little Simon (New York, NY), 2002.
My Oxford ABC and 123 Picture Rhyme Book, Oxford University Press, 2002.
(Editor) The Kingfisher Book of Comic Verse, Kingfisher (London, England), 1986, published as The Kingfisher Book of Funny Poems, illustrated by Caroline Holden, Kingfisher (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor) Wicked Poems, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2003.
The Great Smile Robbery, Kestrel (London, England), 1982.
Crocodile Puddles, New Pyramid (London, England), 1984.
The Stowaways, Kestrel (London, England), 1986.
The Lighthouse That Ran Away, Bodley Head (London, England), 1992.
Stinkers Ahoy!, Viking (London, England), 1994.
Until I Met Dudley: How Everyday Things ReallyWork, illustrated by Chris Riddell, Walker (New York, NY), 1997.
The Way Things Are, Viking (New York, NY), 1999.
Moonthief, illustrated by Penny Dann, Kingfisher (London, England), 2002, Kingfisher (New York, NY), 2003.
Birds, Marriages, and Deaths, first produced in London, England, 1964.
The Chauffeur-Driven Rolls, first produced in Liverpool, England, 1966.
The Commission, first produced in Liverpool, England, 1967.
Zones, first produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1969.
The Puny Little Life Show (first produced in London, England, 1969), Penguin (Harmondsworth, England), 1973.
Stuff, first produced in London, England, 1970.
P. C. Plod, first produced in London, England, 1971.
Word Play, first produced in London, England, 1975.
Golden Nights and Golden Days, first produced in Nottingham, England, 1979.
Summer with Monika (based on his book of same title), first produced in Hammersmith, England, 1979.
Lifeswappers, first produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1980.
Watchwords, first produced in Nottingham, England, 1980.
Like Father, Like Son, Like, produced in Nottingham, England, 1980.
All the Trimmings, first produced in Hammersmith, England, 1980.
(With Brian Patten) Behind the Lines (revue), first produced in London, England, 1982.
(With Brian Patten) The Mouthtrap, first produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1982.
(Lyricist, with William Perry) Wind in the Willows, first produced in Washington, DC, 1984.
A Matter of Chance, adaptation of story by Vladimir Nabokov, first produced in London, England, 1988.
Counting by Numbers, Viking Kestrel (London, England), 1989.
Also author of television plays The Lifeswappers, 1976, Kurt, B. P. Mungo, and Me, 1983, and Fast Forward, 1986; radio plays Gruff: A TV Commercial, 1977, Walking the Dog, 1981, The Narrator, 1985, and FX, 1989; and screenplay Plod, 1972.
Frinck, a Life in the Day of [and] Summer withMonika: Poems, M. Joseph (London, England), 1967.
(Editor and author of introduction) Strictly Private: AnAnthology of Poetry, Kestrel (London, England), 1981.
Also author of television science program The Elements.
The Incredible New Liverpool Scene, Columbia Broadcasting System, 1967.
Fresh Liver, Island, 1972.
Grimms, Island, 1973.
Rockin' Duck, Island, 1974.
Sold Out, Warner Bros., 1974.
Sleepers, D.J.M., 1975.
Summer with Monika, Island, 1978.
(With Brian Patten and Adrian Henri) Gifted Wreckage, Talking Tape, 1984.
(With Brian Patten) Jelly Pie, Puffin, 1987.
Also recorded McGough/Patten, Argo, McGough McGear, Parlophone, Scaffold L. the P., Parlophone, and Scaffold Live at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Parlophone.
A collection of McGough's manuscripts is housed at the University of Hull.
SIDELIGHTS: British author Roger McGough has had a varied career as a poet, playwright, children's author, and musician. He first came to public attention as a member of the music and poetry group known as The Scaffold, which in 1969 recorded a hit record in England, Lily the Pink. McGough's poetry has continued to attract audiences, and he tours frequently, giving readings of his work. McGough tackles serious subjects within his verse, touching on such topics as violence and marital discord with a light, humorous touch that does not reveal the poem's darker side until it ends with an ironic twist. This same style is present in his stories for children, while his edited collections Wicked Poems and The Kingfisher Book of Funny Poems also reflect his offbeat sensibility.
"One of the most striking things about Roger McGough's poetry is the way it crosses the boundaries between writing for children and writing for adults," Peter Hunt stated in his profile of the author for the St. James Guide to Children's Writers. In fact, many of the poet's verses appear in both juvenile and adult collections. Geoff Sadler, who focused on McGough's work in a Contemporary Poets essay, noted that the "performance element is present in virtually all his poems, bringing with it the familiar echoes of circus, pantomime, and old-time music hall." This liveliness of spirit is a key element in McGough's popularity. Judith Elkin, reviewing The Great Smile Robbery for the Times Literary Supplement, wrote: "This hilarious story is written in a mixture of straight narrative, jingles, jokes and word puzzles, cleverly interspersed with line drawings and visual jokes. The story is quite secondary to the joy of unraveling the puns and jokes."
Some reviewers have found McGough's humor too extreme. In his review of Melting into the Foreground for the Times Literary Supplement, Robert Sheppard commented that "the gravity of his subject matter is unsuited to the levity of his tone, and the laxity of his diction." For others, this style is exactly what makes McGough so appealing. "His insights are keen, his touch deft and assured, never unduly labored," wrote Sadler. "These light-fingered but winning ways will continue to draw readers to him, whatever the fluctuations of poetic fashion in the years to come."
McGough's work tends to reflect his calling as a performer, showing "a comic's inventiveness, sense of timing, and delivery," acknowledged the St. James Guide to Children's Writers essayist. "His work contains frequent echoes of popular entertainment: Music hall, stand-up comedy, and pantomime," added the essayist, judging McGough's prose works to be "perhaps less effective than his verse," although praising humorous works The Great Smile Robbery and Stinkers Ahoy! as "ingeniously told and well-integrated" with their respective illustrations. Both The Great Smile Robbery and Stinkers Ahoy! concern the antics of quirky characters such as Billy Bogie, Mrs. Wobblebottom, and King Pong. Many of the poems portray aspects of school life.
Sky in the Pie is a good example of McGough's work, showing his love of words, his playfully surrealistic world-view, and his love of puns. And yet, amid all the humor, "there are occasional lyrical passages, and beneath the jauntiness and conversational wit there is sometimes a serious concern for values," advised the St. James Guide to Children's Writers contributor. The Kite and Caitlyn is an example of McGough's ability to juggle a light tone with serious subject matter. In this story, the author illustrates the situation of a terminally ill child. Caitlyn has been in and out of the hospital for some time, and knows that she will never be really healthy. Given a kite, she dreams of riding it over the highest mountain peaks to a place of peace, with the author thus presenting death "in terms of release and freedom."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Poets, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 40: Poets of
Great Britain and Ireland since 1960, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1985.
St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Schmidt, Michael, and Grevel Lindop, editors, BritishPoetry since 1960: A Critical Survey, Carcanet Press (Manchester, England), 1972, pp. 93-106.
Thurley, Geoffrey, The Ironic Harvest, [London, England], 1974, pp. 195-197.
New Statesman, January 9, 1981, Benedict Nightingale, review of All the Trimmings, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, April 27, 1990, Diane Roback, review of Counting by Numbers, p. 59; November 25, 2002, review of Dogs, Dinos and More, p. 71; April 7, 2003, review of Moonthief, p. 65.
School Library Journal, August, 1990, Jane Garden Connor, review of Counting by Numbers, p. 132; November, 1997, Steven Engelfried, review of Until I Met Dudley: How Everyday Things Really Work, p. 110; June, 2002, Kirsten Oravec, review of The Kingfisher Book of Funny Poems, p. 166.
Times Literary Supplement, January 22, 1982, p. 90; April 8, 1983, p. 356; September 7, 1984, p. 1006; January 23, 1987, p. 92; April 1, 1988, p. 368; August 2, 1990, p. 803.*