Miguel Cullen (b. 1982) is a British-Argentine poet and journalist. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.
Cullen grew up travelling frequently from Buenos Aires, the vast expanse of the Pampas, to south-west London and back again. Never in one place for too long, he spent much of his childhood reading everything from Lorca to Jamaican crime novels; spending long car journeys listening to story-tapes of Greek mythology with his family. As a young man he enjoyed comparable escapism, drawn to early 2000s rave culture and free soundsystem parties; feeling embraced by laser-filled spectrums of drum and bass and lyrical MCs. A girlfriend gave him a rhymebook which he filled with notes, often taking it with him to house parties to perform on the mic.
Much of his work is bilingual, an important nod to his Argentine blood, often bringing words over to use in Spanglish, Franglish or Ítalo-English; to inspire the poem, or provoke the reader into a potential unidentified xenophobia – a tension experienced by Cullen on both sides of his dual nationality and which he entertains within his work.
More recently, his poetry explores occluded, unsafe, sometimes sexual nuances, examining the dualities of vulgarity and vulnerability. These interdigitate with themes of Western religion and traditional Hispanic codes. He draws on themes of intimacy, sexuality, Latinx/Black cultures and then contrasts these images against a backdrop of the Western visual arts, particularly the Old Masters.
His first collection, Wave Caps (2014), was a Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year. VICE described it as “full of the lawless energy of late nights and early mornings, hop-scotching London’s jungle raves”.
His second collection Paranoid Narcissism! (2017) was an Evening Standard Book of the Year, and A N Wilson said of it “Each of these subtly crafted poems contains a surprise; each is a distinct work of art, with the power to shake, move, change us”. Ian Thomson said “Adrift in the contemporary scene, Miguel Cullen notes down all he sees and hears. True stars in poetry like Cullen are not afraid to learn from the brazen avant-garderies of Ezra Pound and company. Brocaded with reflections on homeland and exile, Paranoid Narcissism! is a magnificent, thrillingly metropolitan outpouring of the personal set against a backdrop of the city”.
Cullen has been published in: Caught by the River, the East End Review/Hackney Citizen, the Erotic Review, The Literateur, London magazine, Lunar Poetry, Magma Poetry, Mardulce, Stand and Vice. He was commended in the Segora Poetry Prize 2016, and was recently short-listed for the Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year Award 2020.