If you are going to be even remotely honest, you have to eschew reputation – and reputation as a poet is something Andrew McMillan is gaining in the UK.
For my part, however, his collection “playtime” left me remarkably cold. So cold, in fact, that I have just given up reading it, unable to see it through to climax, as it were. And why is that?
Fundamentally because the poems are colossally monotone both in terms of voice / form and subject. I discover (and there’s no surprise here) that there are only so many poems you can read about circumcision, wet dreams, and teenage homosexual fumblings. Whilst some may applaud the bravery of choosing to tackle such subjects with honesty and frankness (and part of me does too), I object to beaten around the head with them at the same time.
Which is a shame. Because occasionally there are poems on other subjects – like, bizarrely, boxing – which work so much better. In such pieces I think there is probably a mature poet learning his trade. If so, I may well revisit in a few years…