South Yorkshire-raised poet Andrew McMillan’s debut collection Physical was the first ever poetry collection to win The Guardian First Book Award. The collection also won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, a Somerset Maugham Award, an Eric Gregory Award, a Northern Writers’ award and saw him shortlisted as Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year.
McMillan is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and his journalism has been published in The Guardian and The Independent. McMillan joins author and GCN editor Brian Finnegan to discuss his eagerly anticipated second poetry collection, playtime.
When did you start to write poetry?
I started writing is seriously when I was about 15 or 16 really, and it just seemed to be a way that I could make sense of the world.
What poets do you return to over and over?
Thom Gunn, the great Anglo-American poet, one of the most important voices of the 20th Century, Selima Hill, Mark Doty.
Which poem of yours (from Playtime) took the longest to write?
That’s a very good question- I couldn’t say for sure, but a lot of the very short poems in the book are the ones that needed the most redrafting, the most time spending with them- it’s something about that contraction of form and concentration of language which requires a lot of time and attention.
What was the last book you read and loved?
Novel-wise Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight seems to be a quite remarkable achievement of beauty, poetry-wise, Layli Long Soldier’s magnificent Whereas.
Tell us something nobody knows about your new collection, Playtime?
Some of the poems are entirely made-up, and never really happened.
Andrew McMillan will be in Dublin next month to take part in the Red Line Book Festival at the Civic Theatre Tallaght. Tickets are available online here.
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