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Panic Response

John McCullough

"Tender, intimate, zany ... a book for our troubled times."

Monique Roffey
from the winner of the hawthornden prize

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.


Our price £9.99
RRP £9.99
Please note: due to the recent change in tax regulations, we are currently unable to ship to EU countries.
72 pages
ISBN 9781913850050
Published 15 March 2022
Cover design: Zigmunds Lapsa


Mournful yet angry, surreal yet deadpan, McCullough’s poems put immense pressure on the autobiographical self [...] elegiac, rebellious, painful and radiant [...] a bold, multilayered narrative.
Kit Fan, The Guardian

McCullough seeks out light and lightness to lift the weight of insecurity. Inspired by his seaside home in Brighton, he is the laureate of plankton and flotsam, finding salvation in tree-lined parks or the crumbling splendour of regency houses.
Graeme Richardson, The Times

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

About the author

John McCullough lives in Hove. His third book of poems, Reckless Paper Birds (2019), won the Hawthornden Prize and was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award. His previous collections have been Books of the Year for The Guardian and The Independent. He teaches creative writing at the University of Brighton and for organisations including the Arvon Foundation.

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