Raw and urgent, these poems are hymns to the male body – to male friendship and male love – muscular, sometimes shocking, but always deeply moving. We are witness here to an almost religious celebration of the flesh: a flesh vital with the vulnerability of love and loss, to desire and its departure. In an extraordinary blend of McMillan’s own colloquial Yorkshire rhythms with a sinewy, Metaphysical music and Thom Gunn’s torque and speed – ‘your kiss was deep enough to stand in’ – the poems in this first collection confront what it is to be a man and interrogate the very idea of masculinity. This is poetry where every instance of human connection, from the casual encounter to the intimate relationship, becomes redeemable and revelatory.
Dispensing with conventional punctuation, the poet is attentive and alert to the quality of breathing, giving the work an extraordinary sense of being vividly poised and present – drawing lines that are deft, lyrical and perfectly pitched from a world of urban dereliction. An elegant stylist and unfashionably honest poet, McMillan’s eye and ear are tuned, exactly, to both the mechanics of the body and the miracles of the heart.
High praise there - but precise and intelligent praise, too. This from the blurb to Andrew McMillan's physical, due out from Jonathan Cape in July. From what I've seen of McMillan's work and his long apprenticeship in the art of poetry - and he is a poet who not only understands, but whose poems evince, that we must always speak from both the head and the heart - this long-awaited debut will warrant these words. In fact, I'll go so far as to stick my neck out and say, first collection or no, it will make for one of the stand-out poetry collections of 2015.
But don't take my word for it. If you want to hear and judge for yourself, McMillan will be performing at the South Yorkshire Poetry Festival on Sunday 24th May, alongside the inimitable Bard of Barnsley himself, Ian McMillan, and the talented Cumbrian poet Kim Moore, who will be reading from her recently published collection The Art of Falling (Seren, 2015).
Tickets £8 in advance or on the door.
Find out more here, and why not check out the various gigs and events across the week (18-24 May) while you're at it.