Panic Response by John McCullough
You were the first friend to take a poetry course of mine. I thought, This will be a test for me.
John McCullough has won the Hawthornden Prize, has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize and the Costa Poetry Award. His work has been nominated as Book of the Year in both the Guardian and the Independent, and he teaches Creative Writing at the University of Brighton.
I met John on Twitter (absolutely true story) or rather, I encountered his poem Flower of Sulphur for the first time when it was nominated for the Forward Prize. It’s a poem that will stay with me for the rest of my life: clever, deeply personal, educational, heart-rending, practical and utterly, completely brilliant. I was beyond pleased when he became a mutual, and this collection is… well, it’s 100% John at his brilliant and acute best.
Lessons from the Text
Panic Response is another of those books which I wish I’d written: from the surreality of A Chronicle of English Panic, through the idiosyncrasies of deconstructing Emily Dickinson in Six! to the mini movie/banging Sarf Coast anthem that is Prayer for a Godless City… it’s one of those classic double albums from the 1980’s when not a single track was duff, and you wore out your vinyl playing it on repeat. I am legitimately on the second copy of this book, and that’s as high as my praise goes, to be honest.
When you look at a blurb and people appear to be throwing about disparate moods about a text, it becomes a lot more exciting, or at least it does to me. The whole collection is a series of experiments, of reflections and deconstructions, but at its heart is a poet who utterly gets what is going on in their world and is completely happy explaining in whatever manner they feel. Quantum is the standout poem in that vein.
John is also possibly one of the most accessible and approachable poets in my mutuals: his life is bright, bold and holds just the right amount of soft, cuddly plankton. He’s also not afraid to speak his mind, and that’s something that I wish more poets would do. Not only is he a cracking Twitter follow therefore, he’s also a behemoth collection creator.
Will you read it again? Flower of Sulphur gets read more frequently than perhaps I ought to admit in public…
Would you recommend it for me to read? Yes, and there are some other top quality poetic works available at PitM as well…
Buy this from Penned in the Margins
What are your Fave Poems?
Crown Shyness for the imagery
Oops, I Did it Again for the inference
Flower of Sulphur for the impact
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