John won the RTE Poet of the Future Award in 2000 and published his first book, A Better Life (Gallery), in 2002, which received a bursary from the Irish Arts Council and was shortlisted for a Forward Prize. His second book Next Door was published in 2007. Of All Places was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Autumn 2011 and his most recent book The Way In received the Michael Hartnett Award in Spring 2016.
His poems have appeared in the Guardian, Irish Times and many literary journals. He directed Ireland's biggest poetry festival Poetry Now until 2007 and was a contributing editor to the journal Metre. He founded and, for its first three years, co-ordinated and chaired the Irish Times Poetry Now Award. He has acted as external examiner for MA programmes at UCC, UCD, Plymouth, Sheffield Hallam, Liverpool and Lancaster, and as PhD examiner at NUI Galway, University of Wollongong and Plymouth.
His main interests are in poetry, creative writing, contemporary and twentieth-century literature and Irish Studies, and he is interested in supervising research in any of these areas
He previously taught at a number of Irish universities and was Visiting Heimbold Chair in Irish Studies at Villanova University in 2010.With Ian McGuire, he founded the Centre for New Writing in 2007. They founded and co-edit The Manchester Review. He runs the online poetry digest, The Page, and, in 2013, began a regular poetry column for The Irish Times. He is Deputy Chair of the Irish Arts Council.