Featured Publication – Panic Response by John McCullough

Our featured publication for July and August is Panic Response by John McCullough, published by Penned in the Margins.

From the mercurial mind of award-winning poet John McCullough comes Panic Response, his darkest and most experimental book to date.

These poems put personal and cultural anxiety under the microscope. They are full of things that shimmer, quiver and fizz: plankton glowing at low tide; brain tissue turning to glass; a basketball emerging from the waves, covered in barnacles.

Moving beyond the breathlessness of panic towards luminescence and solidarity, this formally innovative new collection sees McCullough at the peak of his powers.

“John McCullough’s fully alive new book experiments with every unit of expression – word, phrase, sentence, line break – as if trying to work out the physics of poetry after the death of John Ashbery. The experience of language here is an intense hallucination, in which the anxious world of the 2020s is both distinctly real and almost weightless, and love and friendship as hard to hold as the ‘salt, dust and recycled breath’ that blows through the poet’s Brighton. But line after line here shines out with its own shape and meaning, and through the unreality runs real feeling, sincere desire for the shared emotion of poetry: ‘to be lost in a new and beautiful manner.” Jeremy Noel-Tod

“I read these poems like a child reads anything for the first time, ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ and laughing and being surprised and saddened and enriched and getting zapped with each poem’s unique electrical charge. Queerness, years of COVID-19, tropes of panic, are all themes which arise again and again across this collection, but most satisfying is the point of view of the poet; McCullough is a visionary, a genius polymath. His worlds and miniature observations are deeply satisfying to stumble into. McCullough’s writing feels tender, intimate, zany and yes … cool. A book for our troubled times.” Monique Roffey


Previously published in Poetry Review

Electric Blue

Oops, I Did It Again

Self-Portrait as a Flashing Neon Sign

John McCullough lives in Hove. His third book of poems, Reckless Paper Birds, was published with Penned in the Margins and won the 2020 Hawthornden Prize for Literature as well as being shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award. John’s previous collections have been Books of the Year for publications including The Guardian and The Independent, and he also won the Polari First Book Prize. His poem ‘Flower of Sulphur’ was shortlisted for the 2021 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. His fourth collection, Panic Response, explores personal and cultural anxiety, and the ways people respond. It was published in March by Penned in the Margins.

Copies of Panic Response are available to purchase from the Penned in the Margins website.

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