Reckless Paper Birds explores vulnerability and the human body,. It was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award, with the judges saying the following: “This collection – hilarious, harrowing and hyper-modern – offers a startlingly fresh insight into vulnerability and suffering.”
‘Such transformative magic! Here is a poetry collection where nothing is what it seems – where Leviticus transforms into a flock of origami birds and Post-it notes are pornographic! McCullough’s poetic terrain is one of subtly-rendered and political surrealism, ‘where mauve armpit hair and sparklers / are ordinary’ and a Pterodactyl can heal bruises. Here are meditations on the vulnerability and uncertainty of bodies, where a body is both ‘gruesome vase’ and ‘deluded hero’, and here are prayers for the bodies ‘[we] will grow into’. Reckless Paper Birds is a timely and necessary collection which vibrates with protest; these poems are talismans against hate that suggest of queerness, ‘our origin is in fire. We are invincible’.’ - Richard Scott
‘John McCullough is a poet you need to know.’ - Sarah Howe
'Mindblowingly excellent. It left me breathless.' - Eric Page, Gscene
'John McCullough has a reputation for crafting lyric poems of the everyday with a surreal twist. In Reckless Paper Birds, the familiar yet strange is rarely more than a stanza away. As if Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems jumped headlong into our 21st century, McCullough's lines sing of Lady Gaga, Instagram and house music.' - Ben Wilkinson, The Guardian
My second collection Spacecraft was published by Penned in the Margins in 2016. it is centred around emptiness and absence. The spaces of the title are not only markers of loss but often creative forces and include various letters, obsolete words and punctuation marks, as well as strangely mobile houses, churches and cities. A central sequence concerns the death of my first partner from an AIDS-related illness. Poems from Spacecraft have appeared in publications including Best British Poetry, Poetry London, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, Magma, The Morning Star, The North, The Rialto and Stand.
A humane and spellbinding collection. - Eric Page, Gscene
In Spacecraft, McCullough unites from and content in a way that exhibits a versatility of tone and imaginative power to great effect ... from the lyrical and the learned, to the colloquial and downright funny. - Maria Taylor, Under the Radar
Out of body, in the open brackets of the air, John McCullough crafts a space unsettled and vast as any voice has dared, charged with remembering and the equally perilous task of forgetting. - D.A. Powell
Spacecraft [is] a cabinet of beautifully shaped curiosities. Combining details of quasi-scientific observation with a fabulist's openness to the queerness of unreason, [McCullough] is somehow both shrewdly sceptical and wide-eyed with wonder at once. - Gregory Woods, The Guardian Best Books for Summer 2016
Driven by the perfect blend of curiosity and feeling, these are poems that pull off that rarest of balancing acts - with brio. John McCullough is a poet you need know. Alive to the pathos in a punctuation mark, walking through dark places with a spring in its step, Spacecraft is a marvellous book. - Sarah Howe
A cumulative mastery of conception and phrase-building is at work - from an intial poem which subtly eroticises the exclamation mark to a spirited reanimation of the word "flother". W.N. Herbert
My first collection The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011) deals with love in many forms from transatlantic relationships in the present day to hidden gay and intersex lives from history. It travels across both the chalk landscapes of Sussex and the urban centres of brighton and London. It was a Book of the Year for The Independent and The Poetry School, and a summer read for The Observer. In 2012, It won the Polari First Book Prize.
John McCullough's debut collection introduces a writer acutely aware of poetry's transformative power, its ability to question assumptions and subtly shift perspective... Sharp yet compassionate, formal yet nimble, the poems glitter with slang and modern culture while maintaining an engaging seriousness. - Ben Wilkinson, The Guardian
In his fine debut collection The Frost Fairs, John McCullough turns out tender love poems and imaginative thought experiments with equal allomb. - Susi Feay, The Independent Books of the Year
In this immensely enjoyable collection there is an immediacy and tenderness that is outstanding. These vivid moving poems have such a sharp eye for those telling daily details, the particulars. All of this, plus their humour, creates that are solidly tangible and believable. - Lee Harwood
McCullough has a very distinctive style of voice, creating a close affinity with the reader which builds to a wonderful empathy with the voices in this collection. A remarkable debut, he offers a playful, yet serious set of poetry which is full of nothing other than sincerity. - Liam Parkin, LoveReading.co.uk
John McCullough's poems are never far from wonderful. - Adam Mars-Jones
The judges were impressed with the polish and precision of the language, the confidence of the writing and the scope of the work. The Frost Fairs isn't a one-note collection, but one that covers many themes and strikes many chords, from modern transatlantic relationships to hidden gay lives from the past. It's also surprisingly mature for a first book - a debut which doesn't feel like a debut. - Paul Burston, Head Judge for the Polari First Book Prize.