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The Frost Fairs by John McCullough
  

The Frost Fairs

Poetry   

RRP £9.99

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Reviewed and selected by our poetry expert, Liam Parkin.

The Frost Fairs is John McCullough’s debut collection, having previously written poems for The Guardian and many poetry magazines. The collection is delicate and sometimes dark, but offers an overwhelmingly beautiful portrait of current culture - both good and bad. McCullough’s down-to-earth style reminds one of Don Paterson, with similar imagery and colloquialisms. The poems will often leave a crisp image left in the mind’s eye, coupled with interesting abstraction which allows us to question a lot of values that are often taken for granted. 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.

Synopsis

The Frost Fairs by John McCullough

The Frost Fairs is a compassionate book with a global and historical scope, tackling science and city life from a range of surreal yet poignant angles. It explores love in many forms, from modern transatlantic relationships to hidden gay and cross-gendered lives from the past. The pieces travel from ancient Alexandria to twenty-first century bars and council estates, behind everything the vastness of the sea and sky. The array of voices here is striking: taxi drivers report their most outlandish fares and hermaphrodite statues flirt with observers; abandoned lovers watch frost fairs melting on the Thames and drag queens revel in the freedoms afforded by the Blitz. Formally deft and carefully crafted, this diverse range of poems uses language that is always musical and alive. Surprise and the uncanny are cherished as ways of returning to us the strange leaps and enduring power of our deepest yearnings. In this collection, longing and losing condition all we see and hear, making the impossible suddenly plausible. Whether exploring Brighton seascapes or questions of empire, there is always in McCullough's writing an openness to seeing the world from an alternative point of view. At once bold and haunting, The Frost Fairs opens the door to a new country in the reader's imagination in its exploration of the possibilities of the human heart.

Reviews

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 [T]he sheer heart-stopping quality of the better poems, however, which make this collection such a rewarding and moving debut. -- A.B. Jackson Horizon Review 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 is a delight to read, the poems sit there waiting for you to look at them again ... He's an origami poet and the pages turn from horses to white capped waves to Sargasso seas to bathetic abyss and back ... It's a lovely journey to take with a master of his art and I'd recommend this first compilation as an excellent gift for anyone with an interest in contemporary poetry, poetry that explores the LGBT experience of love and intimacy and anyone who likes a damn good read. -- Eric Page Gscene Magazine At the core of John McCullough's The Frost Fairs is a hard-won and solid-as-granite foundation, a lasting literary achievement that's replete with range, control, and ambition. Regardless of how far this achievement carries him - and all indications promise that the ascent will surely be a lofty one - my affection will remain for the figure at the end of his poem The Dictionary Man, the lone boy who's asleep at his desk, dreaming over the words. -- Jason Roush Popsublime Tipped with voyeurism, each of the poems within displays a real lightness of touch and mischievous freedom, manifested as whisper and anecdote concerning lives glimpsed in passing. Ultimately, this collection needs to be dipped into, in order to get the most impact from each poem. Read all in one go, the quiet play of each interaction risks blurring into the next, as skaters and stallholders on the arrested Thames. Dr. Fulminare In his fine debut collection The Frost Fairs, John McCullough turns out tender love poems and imaginative thought experiments with equal aplomb. -- Suzi Feay The Independent Books of the Year 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


About the Author

John McCullough was born in Watford in 1978. His poetry has appeared in publications including Poetry London, The Rialto, The Guardian, Magma and London Magazine. He teaches literature and creative writing at the Open University and the University of Sussex and has a Ph.d from Sussex on rhetoric and friendship in English Renaissance writing. He lives in Brighton.

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Book Info

Publication date

27th April 2011

Author

John McCullough

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    recommendations

Publisher

Salt Publishing

Format

Paperback
54 pages

Categories

Poetry by individual poets

ISBN

9781844713981

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