John McCullough discusses his poem Stationery from the Costa Award shortlisted collection Reckless Paper Birds. He talks about the various elements that influenced the poem: From his love life to social media posts. He invites listeners to write a poem using items of stationery as metaphors for life and relationships.
“Though the voice of ‘Stationery’ is quite anxious and manic, the poem is subtly structured not only through the jaunty, indented stanzas like steps but also through a series of images taken from the world of stationery. I’d like you to write a poem which uses one or more items of stationery as a metaphor for either a relationship or for society at large. What does it mean to be written in pencil rather than ink or to be stapled? There’s inevitably immediate potential for humour here but I’d also like you to think about how this strange perspective might be used to probe deeper territory, how adopting this unusual angle might allow you to investigate the different ways that people interact with each other.”
Pick up your pen and notebook and see what inspires you. Send your poems here and you could be featured on the blog or in a future podcast.
John McCullough is the next guest on the podcast talking his Costa Book Awards shortlisted poetry collection, Reckless Paper Birds published by Penned in the Margins. Here’s one of the poems you can hear him read and discuss.
It’s true: there is a light at the centre of my body. If I could, I would lift aside a curtain of this flesh and demonstrate, but for now it is my private neon. It is closest to the air at certain moments, like when buttercups repair a morning’s jagged edge. Other times, a flock of days descends and my soul flickers, goes to ground. Without light, I’m all membrane; each part becomes a gate. I pour across each margin and nothing has enough hands to catch me, my teeth knocking so fast I daren’t hold any piece of myself near in case I start a banquet. I’m only eased by accident. On the drenched path, I pick up snails and transport them to safer earth then feel a stirring. I watch as rain streams from lopped-back elms, my face teeming with water and―hello stranger―my soul glides to my surface like it, too, belongs there; like a bright fish rising to feed.
John McCullough lives in Hove. His first collection of poems, The Frost Fairs (Salt), won the Polari First Book Prize in 2012 and was a Book of the Year for The Independent. This was followed by Spacecraft (Penned in the Margins, 2016) which was a summer read in The Guardian and shortlisted for the Ledbury-Forte prize. His latest book of poems, Reckless Paper Birds (Penned in the Margins, 2019) was recently shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award. The judges said “This collection – hilarious, harrowing and hyper-modern – offers a startlingly fresh insight into vulnerability and suffering.”