‘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’.’
‘John McCullough’s dazzling, synaesthetic third collection charts the ways our lives move inexorably towards ‘somewhere we do not recognise’, through shifting territories of love, intoxication, loss and knowledge. In these visceral, political poems, history ‘presses its mouth’ to our bodies and whispers strange secrets—McCullough has listened and found a language for them. This collection guides us through a world of déjà vu, doubt and rapture, a place where ‘each fingernail is a screensaver of somewhere’.’
‘John McCullough is a poet you need to know.’
'Mindblowingly excellent. It left me breathless.'
'The poetry of reckless flight is joyful – it offers freedom and life, in contrast to the suffering and frailty of the body.'
Maria Taylor, The Poetry School
McCullough is a tenderly open poet. [...] Reckless Paper Birds
embraces the formal as a means of interrogating the body, specifically in a state of queerness which by nature also allows for certain fragilities literalized.
Alexandra Marraccini, Brixton Review of Books
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
A celebration of abundace ... a secular litany of life in its fullness and fragility.
Rob Mackenzie, Poetry London
The vitality of the poems, their nimbleness, their wit and their music combine to mark Reckless Paper Birds
as a rare literary phenomenon. The book, for all its undercurrents and complexities, is a frank and militant declaration of joy – gay in a double sense of the word – and should be taken very seriously.
Christopher Reid, Judge of the 2020 Hawthornden Prize