Book Club interviews: Andrew McMillan’s Physical

Three months in and the Hyde Park Book Club Book Club is looking suitably, well, bookish. For those thinking the repetition of ‘book club’ is a typo, it’s not: it is a book club held in a venue called—confusingly—the Hyde Park Book Club. Our focus on contemporary northern writing has spanned short stories, novels and, as of September, poetry. More specifically, Andrew McMillan’s award-winning debut poetry collection, Physical, which spawned one of our liveliest discussions yet. We huddled around a vegetable-adorned table in Hyde Park Book Club’s lovely new second space and—more terrible puns alert!—got down and dirty with Andrew’s collection. Reading it is less like reading poetry, more like wandering through someone’s heart and then out into a wild northern night out.

There were certain poems, like ‘The Men In the Gym Are Weeping’, which made some of us cry, others of us laugh. There was one poem translated from the Medieval Icelandic which left us all a bit confused. Yet we were all struck by Andrew’s unflinching portrayal of everyday human intimacies and awkwardnesses.

After the book club, I emailed Andrew some of our questions. He was kind enough to answer them.

The collection seemed to challenge the conventional divide, in poetry as in life, between the physical and the intellection/the metaphysical. Yet this challenge had shifted shape considerably by the end of the collection. Did you write it with this change in mind

or did it come as a surprise?

I think I began writing the book, as I think most poets do, just as occasional, individual poems and so I’m always surprised when that turns into something that has a coherence to it

The first section deals mainly with intimate relationships, the second with those between individuals and their towns. How do you find the two relate?

I think, in the second section, the long poem, I was thinking of loss on a personal and community level; the first poems are often about people leaving, or about things that didn’t quite work out, and Barnsley, as a town, suffered really hard in the last recession, and it felt like a loss too, the loss of potential , the loss of a future, and in many ways to the two are similar.

Read the rest of the interview in The State of the Arts magazine here.

The Hyde Park Book Club Book Club runs every month. Focussing on contemporary northern writing, it usually involves people, books and—thanks to our lovely venue, the Hyde Park Book Club—excellent craft beer and veggie chicken. The next meeting is on Tuesday 11th October at 6.30pm and the book up for discussion is Sunjeev Sahota’s gripping debut novel Ours Are The Streets. If you like books and people and beer, you should definitely come. If you’re still not convinced about the veggie chicken, well, you’ll have to try it and see… Let us know you’re coming and find out about future events on Facebook.

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