Andrew McMillan online at The Bookish Type

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor
Poet Andrew McMillan. Photo Ursula Soltys.
Poet Andrew McMillan. Photo Ursula Soltys.

17 August 2021 Entrance is free — Visit now

Award-winning poet and Manchester Writing School lecturer Andrew McMillan will be reading from his third collection, pandemonium, and chatting about it to Saturday Boy Joe in this online event streaming live from Leeds’ independent queer bookshop The Bookish Type.

Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo says of Andrew McMillan’s work: “His poetic voice is completely natural and free, with no pretence or attempts to obfuscate meaning, yet the work has emotional complexity, power and depth.”

Andrew McMillan’s debut, physical (Cape, 2015), was the first poetry collection to win the Guardian First Book Award and it went on to win many other prizes (the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, a Somerset Maugham Award, an Eric Gregory Award and a Northern Writers’ Award) and was voted one of the top 25 poetry books of the past 25 years by the Booksellers Association. The collection confronts what it is to be a man and interrogates the very idea of masculinity. Sarah Crown said in The Guardian: “When Andrew McMillan published his first poetry collection, physical, in 2015, the response was extraordinary. A tidal wave of praise and celebration pouring in from all sides marked it out as the sort of once-in-a-generation debut that causes everyone to sit up and take notice.”

His second collection, playtime (Cape, 2018), won the inaugural Polari Prize and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for autumn 2018, a Poetry Book of the Month in both The Observer and The Telegraph, and a Poetry Book of the Year in The Sunday Times. Taking us back to childhood and early adolescence to explore the different ways we grow into our sexual selves and our adult identities, Alan Bennett called it “vivid, accessible and honest, sometimes uncomfortably so” in the London Review of Books, while The Times said: “playtime’s meat and drink is the candid memoir poem, told with courage, invention and charm.”

While both these collections examined the intimacies and intricacies of the physical body, offering up unflinchingly frank depictions of the body and sexual love, the new book marks a change of tack from the senior lecturer in creative writing at the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, looking inward, into the difficult world of mental health, and also outwards into the natural and political world.

Addressing a period of acute depression, the new poems have been described as “raw dispatches from a mind in freefall, a body in trouble” and “tender, savagely moving poems which stare, unblinkingly, into the sudden havoc and hurt of this world, searching for – and finally finding – some redemption”. Less about physical union and completeness, and more about fracture and distance, the collection has already been named one of the picks of the year in the Guardian, Financial Times and Irish Times Culture.

Publisher Jonathan Cape elaborates: “Keeping his trademark breath-space and lower-case lines, but more formally experimental, incorporating sequences and sonnets, the poems in pandemonium explore the fragility and depth of the human mind – in its panic and its troubled retreat – and map this turmoil onto the chaos and abundance of the garden. Depression is mirrored in the invasive, seemingly untreatable knotweed that slowly suffocates the garden, while the sky conspires in its sudden, terrifying clarity, ‘as though the root of the world were ripped clean off’.”

Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo says of Andrew McMillan’s work: “His poetic voice is completely natural and free, with no pretence or attempts to obfuscate meaning, yet the work has emotional complexity, power and depth.”

If you like the sound of this event, why not have a look at the Home Stage reading from Leeds-born Caroline Bird – currently shortlisted for the Polari Prize – the following week.

For more book-buying opportunities in Leeds, check out the regular Leeds Record & Book Fair at Kirkgate Market.

Andrew McMillan pandemonium cover
Andrew McMillan pandemonium cover

17 August 2021 Entrance is free Visit now

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