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Physical - A Poetry Collection by Andrew MacMillan

I used to think poetry was only for two types of people.

The trendy uni students - these types of specimen are the seemingly cool and slightly intimidating creative arts students; you know the types who only drink skinny decaf matcha lattes with soy milk and can’t stop talking about their recent gap year trip to Verbier, or the cripplingly depressed who write endless beat poems in an attempt to spew the madness from their head onto page just to steer clear of the local asylum…

Turns out I was wrong. Poetry can be for anyone, one size fits all.

Anyway this is just a tenuous link to what I actually am going to blather about in this post.

The textbook definition of poetry is a way in which the expression of feelings and ideas is amplified by the use of style and rhythm; however it is so much more personal than Wikipedia could ever know.

Last October I was lucky enough to go on a creative writing course in Yorkshire (with a bit of encouragement from my friends). I’ve always thought I was a bit of a crappy writer who could, if all plans for art school fell through, pursue a career in the field. I was mentored by poet Alicia Stubbersfield, and it was there I grew close with my now current besto’s who are avid poetry readers themselves and I  have been addicted to all things poncy ever since.

Another mentor at the Arvon course is renowned poet Andrew MacMillan. And my god, I fancy this wonderful man.

The Yorkshiremen’s most popular work is called Physical, a collection of poems. I will try my best to describe what flicking through this book is like in the most poetic way possible, and yes I have read this book over 20 times. I’m not afraid to admit I’m obsessed with his work because let’s be honest, he’s pretty amazing.

To give a brief synopsis, the angelic MacMillan finds the surreal in every day, enlightening us (the reader) to a selection of writing, serious but rarely solipsistic. He mainly focuses on the social expectations of what it means to be a ‘man’ in our present day society, and assesses the state of modern masculinity.

Alongside these portraits of a heterosexual male, his portrayal of damaged masculinity in ‘Physical’ explores homosexuality with a more personal approach for MacMillan himself, as he details the more graphic side to his relationship with other men.

Poems sandwiched in this symbolic way delve into and tear open the euphemistic manner in which homoeroticism has been presented in the past.

So in other words, Andrew MacMillan is a literary genius and has transformed my view of poetry, and also inspired me in many ways. If by now reader you have not been scared off by my borderline stalker-ish babble, I highly recommend ordering this book. Even if you’re not too keen on the slightly more arduous essay reading such as Ginsberg’s work and don’t want to be persuaded to stick your head in the oven in hysterical sobs much like dear Sylvia Plath, then MacMillan is the guy for you.


By Ali Thompson

Posted in Blog by Emma Stokes