In these intimate, sometimes painfully frank poems, Andrew McMillan takes us back to childhood and early adolescence to explore the different ways we grow into our sexual selves and our adult identities. Examining our teenage rites of passage: those dilemmas and traumas that shape us – eating disorders, masturbation, loss of virginity – the poet examines how we use bodies, both our own and other people’s, to chart our progress towards selfhood.
McMillan’s award-winning debut collection, physical, was praised for a poetry that was tight and powerful, raw and tender, and playtime expands that narrative frame and widens the gaze. Alongside poems in praise of the naivety of youth, there are those that explore the troubling intersections of violence, masculinity, class and sexuality, always taking the reader with them towards a better understanding of our own physicality. ‘isn’t this what human kind was made for’, McMillan asks in one poem, ‘telling stories learning where the skin/is most in need of touch’. These humane and vital poems are confessions, both in the spiritual and personal sense; they tell us stories that some of us, perhaps, have never found the courage to read before.