John McCullough was launching his new poem ‘Antinous’ at the British Museum on Thursday, as well as reading from his new book ‘The Frost Fairs’ and running a brilliant poetry workshop.
I first met him as a student at Sussex Uni two years ago. He is well read, a good communicator and inspiring. He believes all poets have a personal journey to make, so he introduces his students to a wide range of poetry, offers exercises, sets tasks, including students work-shopping their own p0ems.
His poem ‘Antinous’ about gay love, was connected to a series of events in the museum under the heading ‘Write Queer London’.
The young Antinous was the lover of the Emperor Hadrian. The boy, who it is thought to have been the only true love of Hadrian’s life, was found drowned in the Nile. It sent the Emperor into such desperate grief that it altered the Roman world. Cities were founded in his name, medals struck with his likeness and godlike images of the dead youth commissioned for shrines and sanctuaries.
John had spent some time in the museum deciding which item to write about. Once he had chosen Antinous, he embarked on research and began to work out how to go about writing the poem. He told us that he started off with what he calls a free write, with lots of ideas without crossings out or too much conscious thought. He eventually chose a sonnet form because the subject lent itself to it.
I can’t print out the poem here because I am not sure about the copyright. But it would be lovely if you check with the museum to find out when it will be displayed. Not just so you can read it for yourself, but also in the spirit of supporting fellow poets.