Physical – Andrew McMillan


Andrew McMillan

London: Jonathan Cape



Andrew McMillan was born in South Yorkshire and now lives in Manchester. His debut collection, Physical, what I am going to talk about today, was the first poetry collection to win the The Guardian First Book Award. McMillan inspires me because he also studied English & Creative Writing (like me) and went on to have his own works. Looking at authors accomplishments is inspiring enough, but when it is a similar journey, it motivates me more to write. Since then, McMillan’s collection has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards, various recommendations and has even been translated into other languages! He now currently lectures in Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores.

Physical is one of the best poetry collections I have ever read. I only started to read poetry collections once I started my English and Creative Writing course. I had always enjoyed reading and writing poetry, but I never went out of my way to read a full collection, it was usually the single poem. I feel that with most collections, the poems work together to speak to the audience as a whole, helping you understand new meaning behind the poems. Physical really spoke to me and offered a personal touch that enabled me to interact with the poems. The blurb talks about the collection being a ‘celebration of the flesh’ a ‘vulnerability of love and loss’. It is almost that McMillan is celebrating life by addressing the subjects we do not openly talk about. The organisation of the words on the page intertwined with the clever use of punctuation, allow you to read the poem a certain way drawing attention to different things. The punctuation elaborates a notion of breathing, as if we are part of the intimacy of someone reading it out to us. The way that McMillan uses his debut collection to create the intimacy with an audience is beautiful. He breaks social and personal boundaries in order to connect with the audience. It can become quite controversial because some people would find this feeling uncomfortable, when looking at his poems in class, a few of my classmates were unsure how to take on some of the words and meanings. Personally, I like the intimacy and the ‘saying how it is’. I really enjoyed the close bond between the writer and the reader and the ‘taboo’ subjects. Helen Mort describes the poems as, ‘poems that have seen you naked.’ They know your secrets, they know what’s going on- they are part of that taboo that we will never know, in order to ‘captivate and change you’. Almost as if the poem is Physical-ly touching you.


I’m scared of bumping someone while they piss
those Mondays I’m a packhorse     bags hung
swinging around the urinal bodies
and one day     I know     I’ll knock someone
and they’ll piss their legs    or they’ll turn slightly
and show another man their full arc
or they’ll fall into their own wet puddle
cock limp     and neither of us will look
or he’ll look at me avoiding looking
feigning interest in the hard cream tiles
maybe it’s that I dream of being bumped
knocked from my aim by a stranger
the briefest touch during the private act
the toilet is an intimacy
only shared with parents when you are young
and once again when they are older
and 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
and knowing that this is love     the prone flesh
what we expel from the body and what we let inside

I first got introduced to Urination in class. I have looked at it twice in classes before I bought the collection. I love this poem, although it starts a little crude, I love the true meaning behind it and how McMillan can write about something we don’t talk about, urination, and turn it into something beautiful. I enjoy that the taboo topic of urination can make someone feel uneasy, we all do it but it is (usually) a very personal thing and when someone address it and describes it as many things although we can relate, some people do not like to see it being addressed. This is one of my favourite poems EVER, let me know in the comments what you think!!!

My other favourites are Morn and Choke. Morn is very personal and it reminds me that the writer is close to home. It creates an atmosphere of home with a deeper meaning of loss and love. Choke is a little different, it is quite gruesome but it opens us up into another intimate moment between a couple. When a couple argue it is quite an intimate moment and can get quite heated, but nevertheless usually remains quite private, so the way that McMillan addresses it is quite interesting and he perfects the heat of the moment with many other metaphors that lead to other meaning.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think via commenting or the links below! Please feel free to like, share and comment!!! 🙂

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