POET OF THE WEEK: ANDREW MCMILLAN ON PANDEMONIUM
Posted on May 27 2021
We're delighted to be able to share this exclusive blog from our PBS Selector Andrew McMillan, to celebrate the launch of his new poetry collection Pandemonium. After two prize-winning collections which examined the intimacies and intricacies of the physical body, McMillan's third book marks a shift: both inward, into the difficult world of mental health, and outwards into the natural and political world. PBS Members can order copies here with 25% off.
"I have, over the last few quarters, become used to the impossible task of summing up a collection in three hundred words. That’s what me and my fellow selectors are given to tell you about some of the most exciting books around at any given time. It’s a tricky medium, slightly too long for just a blurb, but slightly too short for in-depth analysis. Your best hope is to straddle the awkward tight-rope of a sentence somewhere between the two.
I now find myself in the odd position of having to do this for my own book and, look, I’ve already wasted 100 words. Pandemonium, my third collection, was published last week. It’s not an easy book (it certainly wasn’t to write) and I imagine not to read either. I’ve been searching for ways to write about both the intangible, beyond-language nature of mental health, but also its all-too-real, lived reality. The garden, a space of solace during difficult times, but also a disquieting space of tumult and wildness, features heavily.
It’s a strange process putting together a book. It happens, like spring does, imperceptibly, and then all at once. A single poem, and then another one, and then one more which seems to maybe speak to the previous two. Things build by accumulation, until all the loose leaves of the past few years are spread on the floor around you while you try to make sense of them.
One thing reading for the PBS does is make you realise how much great poetry there is out there. What could one ever want for one’s own work except for it to be a small part of the lush eco-system of contemporary poetry, a small branch on the huge tree that is this art-form; its roots digging down through the centuries, new buds reaching out towards the coming sun."
Andrew McMillan’s debut collection physical was the first 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 and a Northern Writers’ award. His second collection playtime was published by Jonathan Cape in 2018 and won the inaugural Polari Prize. Andrew is senior lecturer at the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University and lives in Manchester.