Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Andrew McMillan

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
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Andrew McMillan

Andrew McMillan was born in 1988.  He is senior lecturer at the Manchester Writing School, MMU. He studied English Literature w/ Creative Writing at Lancaster University, and then an MA in modernism from University College London. As well as poetry, he has written journalism for The Guardian and The Independent and appeared on BBC Radio 3 and 4 (Free Thinking, The Echo Chamber, Front Row, Something Understood)

His first full-length collection, physical, was published by Jonathan Cape in July 2015 and is the first ever poetry collection to win The Guardian First Book Award. The collection also won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Costa Poetry Award, the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Roehampton Poetry Prize.  This follows three highly successful pamphlets, the first of which, every salt advance, was published in 2009 by Red Squirrel Press. A second pamphlet, the moon is a supporting player, was published by Red Squirrel Press in October 2011 and a third, protest of the physical, a single long poem, was published by Red Squirrel Press in October 2013. A selection of his poetry can be found in anthologies such as  The Salt Book of Younger Poets, Best British Poetry 2013 and Best British Poetry 2015. Recent single poems can be found in the Poetry, The Poetry Review and Poetry London.

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

I think, like all writers, it was that I loved reading it. I loved reading it, and wanted to sit inside the poems that I loved as much as possible and wanted to find out how they were having the effect that they were on me. And so I started to imitate and to write and then to keep trying to get better.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I was lucky enough because of who my dad is to grow up in a house that was full of contemporary poetry books, so it’s an odd thing in that it was never something I had to be introduced to, as it were, it was just always there.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I’ve been really lucky to be part of what feels like a really special generation of young poets who have all come up and started publishing together, which has been really lovely. But I always read and respected the older generations too; I took my cues and my inspirations from the mid-20th century poetry, rather than any of my contemporaries.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I wish I had one.  I get up at five for the dog, feed her, let her out and then she tends to go back to sleep and I can have a couple of hours of solid un-interrupted time. I don’t write poetry every day, I don’t see how one could, but I try to do something connected to it each day. Editing, emailing, mainly reading other people’s stuff as well.

5. What motivates you to write?

To try and get closer to the thing that it is impossible to articulate in language

6. What is your work ethic?

I work very hard at this, all aspects of it, seven days a week. But I’m lucky that I have my health, a job that provides me enough money to be comfortable, no dependents (apart from the dog); I have a lot of space to indulge my work ethic

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Thom Gunn showed me a queer life could be worth writing about, Selima Hill taught me to have fun, Mark Doty showed me how to find the sublime in the mundane and Philip Larkin taught me not to be afraid of Poetic endings

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I literally can’t list them all, and I think with questions like this people just end up listing their friends, which seems counterproductive. I will say that Layli Long Soldier’s collection, Whereas, is something quite remarkable.

9. Why do you write?

To make sense of the world

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

It’s not something you become so much as something which just gradually comes upon you through a love of reading and a love of language

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I’m working on a version of Dorian Grey for Proper Job Theatre, and trying my hand at a couple of as-yet-untitled projects.

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