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An extraordinary debut from a 26-year-old poet Winner of the 2015 Guardian First Book Award Winner of the 2015 Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize Shortlisted for the 2015 Costa Poetry Prize Shortlisted for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best First Collection

*Winner of the 2015 Guardian First Book Award*
Raw and urgent, these poems are hymns to the male body – to male friendship and male love – muscular, sometimes shocking, but always deeply moving.
We are witness here to an almost religious celebration of the flesh: a flesh vital with the vulnerability of love and loss, to desire and its departure. In an extraordinary blend of McMillan’s own colloquial Yorkshire rhythms with a sinewy, Metaphysical music and Thom Gunn’s torque and speed – ‘your kiss was deep enough to stand in’ – the poems in this first collection confront what it is to be a man and interrogate the very idea of masculinity. This is poetry where every instance of human connection, from the casual encounter to the intimate relationship, becomes redeemable and revelatory.

Dispensing with conventional punctuation, the poet is attentive and alert to the quality of breathing, giving the work an extraordinary sense of being vividly poised and present – drawing lines that are deft, lyrical and perfectly pitched from a world of urban dereliction. An elegant stylist and unfashionably honest poet, McMillan’s eye and ear are tuned, exactly, to both the mechanics of the body and the miracles of the heart.
Winner of the 2015 Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize
Shortlisted for the 2015 Costa Poetry Prize
Shortlisted for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best First Collection


Andrew McMillan’s wide-awake debut anatomises male desire and its often thwarted expressions; these fresh and engaging poems enter the temple of longing in honest search for what may be found there, which turns out to be joy, desolation, secret languages, the possibilities of transformation and of disappointment borne in every touch.

Mark Doty

Andrew McMillan's award-winning debut collection, physical, a raw and tender exploration of gay love and desire, heralded him as a new force in contemporary poetry.


When Andrew McMillan published his first poetry collection, physical, in 2015, the response was extraordinary. A tidal wave of praise pouring in from all sides marked it out as the sort of once-in-a-generation debut that causes everyone to sit up and take notice... physical was a collection unlike any other.

Sarah Crown, Guardian

physical really announces Andrew McMillan and it feels like a long while since a first book has managed this degree of tenderness and candour, sensuality and vulnerability. “There is beauty in the ordinary”, and every poem in this urgent, unflinching, exceptional debut affirms this.

Paul Farley

Thom Gunn, the lodestar of this collection, said that poetry comes from obsession and passion. Few first books are as passionate, as carnal, as this one. McMillan’s work is a glorious, vivid exploration of the body as the loved and broken ground on which we meet and are transformed.

Michael Symmons Roberts

Unforced, unbidden, these are poems that call you by your real name, poems that have seen you naked, poems that find out your secrets and gift them back. Physical is alive with subtle reflections on masculinity, love and loss; a record of how we forget ourselves and how we remember. It will captivate and change you.

Helen Mort

His seriousness of tone and address is electrifyingly fresh and lyrical. He takes the weight of language seriously but balances it with play and deft control…Andrew McMillan is already a poet of considerable achievement.

David Morley

His language makes a quite exquisite, sometimes Pinteresque music of love with perfectly pitched cadences of speech.

William Bedford

McMillan has the power to titillate and disturb in each of the poems that he writes whilst also…constructing poems the like of which I have never seen or read before. It is playful and also perturbing, saucy and sensual as well as being masculine and moving.

Savidge Reads

Minutely observed, bold yet understated, moving and often profound in the same breath, Physical is a book everyone should read.

Ben Wilkinson, Guardian

Here in these pages, along with the stunning imagery. Innovation of form and the poised breathing rhythm, there is a sensitivity and honesty about gay love, longing and loss that is powerful, revealing, and very beautiful.

Uli Lenart, Pride Life

There is absolutely no aspect of desire that McMillan does not articulate in phrases and images that have stayed with me ever since I first read it. Some of these poems, I suspect, will be in anthologies hundreds of years from now.

Tom Holland, Evening Standard

An elegantly poised and intimae collection of poems.

Richard Lea, Guardian

McMillan’s writing floored me. It is funny, frank and addictive.

Peter Bradwshaw, Guardian

A highly accomplished collection that presages a bright future for this young poet.

Jade Craddock, Nudge

A collection of homoerotic poems that are febrile, tender, and written with an unwavering apprehension of beauty.

Kate Kellaway, Observer

Physical is a stunning, raw and direct look at what it is to be male. It celebrates the male physique in all its forms as much as it celebrates the foibles of the male species […] I cannot wait to see what Andrew McMillan creates next.

Savidge Reads

My favourite book this year… A meditation on masculinity both frail and robust. McMillan’s book was the standout on a strong shortlist.

Neil D.A. Stewart, Civilian

[McMillan’s] poems are raw, intimate and physical explorations of love, invoking the spirit of Thom Gunn’s visceral poems and essays… McMillan’s stunning poems are unflinching and palpably real.

Charlotte Runcie, Daily Telegraph

Raw and urgent, these poems are hymns to the male body… This is poetry where every instance of human connection, from the casual encounter to the intimate relationship, becomes redeemable and revelatory.

Charlotte Maxwell, Vada Magazine

Reading it is less like reading poetry, more like wandering through someone’s heart and then out into a wild northern night out… We were all struck by Andrew’s unflinching portrayal of everyday human intimacies and awkwardnesses.

Clare Fisher, The State of the Arts

It’s almost as though McMillan ripped his heart out and pinned it dripping to the pages of this short book… I very much enjoyed this collection of poems — it took me right out of my comfort zone but I was in good hands. Yes, some of it is confronting and occasionally shocking, but the honesty…lends an exquisite beauty to McMillan’s work.

Reading Matters

I’ve read some great poetry collections this year, but nothing as startlingly visceral and beautiful as Andrew McMillan’s Physical.

Sarah Crossan, Irish Times, Book of the Year

McMillan’s powerful collection explores and interrogates masculinity with frank honesty.

Malika Booker, Metro

McMillan…is a natural communicator and his material – sexuality, the body, masculinity – are urgent topics for our time.

Charlotte Higgins, Guardian

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    July 15, 2015

    Jonathan Cape

    64 pages

    RRP $24.99

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    July 9, 2015

    Vintage Digital

    64 pages

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