‘Oops, I Did It Again’ by John McCullough

The second poem I would like to share this evening is from John McCullough’s newly released collection Panic Response (2022) published by Penned in the Margins. I’m still finding favourites as I read and re-read the collection but this is one of my absolute favourite’s so far.

When John isn’t writing he teaches creative writing courses at the University of Brighton, the Arvon Foundation and New Writing South. He has a PhD in English literature from the University of Sussex after writing a thesis on the rhetoric of friendship in Renaissance writing, 1579-1625. His interests include queer culture, Doctor Who and most things to do with Japan. John grew up in Watford but now lives in Hove with his partner and their cats (John McCullough n.d.). You can purchase a copy of Panic Room here.

Oops, I Did It Again

Error, from the Latin errare, to stray — a deviation
                  from correctness. I spell my surname wrong
   on the estate agent’s form or assume the atlas moth
roofing my hand is a finch. Browning used twat
          in ‘Pippa Passes’, thinking it was what a nun
    wore on her head. The great American poet
        I sent my work to felt one last line was a leap too far
the undeleted instruction SORT OUT
I don’t think I ever did. My dodgy sat-nav always sends me off
         the highway too early, too late.
                                    The one question:
what colour is my catastrophe today?
                    That email to a straight male editor with a string
of kisses: claret. My doomed relationship with Craig:
       dark blue. In the nineteenth century, there were manifold
    sightings of a nonexistent planet called Vulcan.
It hangs over me still, guiding experiments
          which seem like failures only for a while.
                                 Ripped apart by error,
I wake up naked, the filthy air remembering everything,
       even the dream where, after I spilled tea
                    on Noel Coward’s shirt cuff, he whispered
                                             How alive of you.
                                                         Go on: do it again.


McCullough, J. (n.d.) John McCullough: About [online]. Available from https://www.johnmccullough.co.uk/About-Me/ [18 April 2022]

McCullough, J. (2022) Panic Response. London: Penned in the Margins, 50-51

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Wendy Pratt

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