Thursday, 12 November 2015

Andrew McMillan: Let's Get Physical

The heady scent of sensuality surrounds the 2015 Guardian first book award, as a series of “hymns to the male body” becomes only the second collection of poetry to be shortlisted for the prize.

Andrew McMillan’s exploration of modern masculinity, Physical, is one of six debuts in contention for the £10,000 award. This examination of what it means to be a man in the 21st century interrogates contemporary gay life to reflect on connections between bodies and souls.

In Urination, the 27-year-old poet opens by worrying about “bumping someone while they piss” in a urinal, before writing of the “intimacy” of the toilet, shared only with parents and then with lovers, “when say on a Sunday / morning stretching into the bathroom / you wake to the sound of stream into bowl / and go to hug the naked body / stood with its back to you and kiss the neck / and taste the whole of the night on there / and smell the morning’s pale yellow loss / and take the whole of him in your hand / and feel the water moving through him”. While in Jacob With the Angel, he reimagines the biblical story as a sexual encounter between gay lovers, “tangling in the unpierced flesh of one another / grappling with the shifting question of each other’s bodies”.

McMillan puts physical anxieties under the lens in a poem that opens: “The men are weeping in the gym / using the hand dryer to cover their sobs / their hearts have grown too big / for their chests their chests have grown too big / for their shirts … they are crying in the toilet”.

Announcing the shortlist, Guardian books editor Claire Armitstead said that McMillan’s poems had “totally disarmed” her. “As a middle-aged, heterosexual woman, I’d assumed they wouldn’t be for me, but I found them tender and sexy and entirely relatable,” said Armitstead. “They carried me straight back to my teenage infatuation with the work of Thom Gunn, another gay poet, who is one of McMillan’s touchstones for Physical.” ...


On order!

She's got a website!

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