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John McCullough reads from Panic Response


English is an old ocean whose waves have been crashing for centuries against our ears, and I can feel the breadth and breath and depth of it when I read  Panic Response, a book I liked enough to read again. A poem’s meant to be read over and over, and the poems in Panic Response, I am happy to report, only get better. Take for example these lines that appear in the poem “Six!”

Ecstasy comes from the Greek ekstasis, to stand outside the self. To encounter it, I had to leave my thoughts and commune with the endless, not just the vast space above my head but what collapses distinctions of time.

Inside looking out, and outside looking in, the poet takes us into his confidence and says:

Knowing a living thing’s name stops you seeing the individual clearly—you say honeysuckle instead of hello.

Let’s look and listen and look. In the Vimeo below, John McCullough reads three of his poems from Panic Response. After the Vimeo, I include a few that I especially enjoyed the second time around myself, looking forward to a third and a fourth. 




from “About John McCullough” in Forward Arts Foundation:


John McCullough

John McCullough (b. 1978, Watford) wrote ‘Flower of Sulphur’ immediately after taking a year off from poetry owing to ill-health after the publication of his third collection, Reckless Paper Birds. ‘When I returned, I felt suddenly able to tackle areas I’d found too painful to write about before, using experimental forms’, he writes.

McCullough’s PhD, at the University of Sussex, was on friendship in English renaissance writing; ‘Flower of Sulphur’ returns to his experience of study, a breakdown, and a friend’s suicide. It is self-referential, commenting on its own forms – commonplace book, abecedary, game – while still heartbreakingly direct. ‘Poetry for me is a craft and like any craft it takes thousands of hours of quiet honing. There’s no way around this’, McCullough writes. ‘I guess my biggest piece of advice to anyone starting out in poetry is try to enjoy the journey of discovering writers who reshape the way you see the world and each little breakthrough as you refine your editing strategies.’


Here is a short interview with John McCullough in Forward Arts Foundation:



Here is John McCullough’s poem “Flower of Sulphur”which is up for the Forward Prize: 



You can find out more about the Arts Forward Foundation here:



Panic Response is published by Penned in the Margins. You can check it out here:


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