I think poetry and fashion have a lot in common – honestly, hear me out. Both are often dismissed as unimportant or irrelevant by people who are scared they won’t understand them. Both, too, are things that the general public might only turn to for the pivotal moments of their lives, a wedding or a funeral.
 

Yet I guess there is one major difference; poetry’s job, as I see it, is to witness what’s happening, take it, distil it and give it back to the reader, to say ‘this is what it’s really like’. Fashion’s job, ultimately, is to suggest a new way of living our lives in the near-future, a new way of inhabiting the world.
 

I can’t remember if the way I dress impacted on my poetry or the other way around. I like a plain style, a stripped back, ‘clean line’ in both what I write and what I wear. I started wearing all black (I know, cliché!) for poetry readings because I wanted the words to be the only thing that stood out, and that’s eventually seeped out into my everyday life. I want my clothes to be plain, unadorned, and direct, yet at the same time maintain a sense of fun.
 

So as I’m sat writing this, I’m wearing my favourite comfort jumper, an oversized ACNE sweater that swims around my knees, and some baggy McQueen trousers with an oversized cuff just above the ankle. All black of course, perhaps because any propensity I have towards creativity goes into my writing, so I want dressing to be as easy as possible; everything matches, everything goes together, so I can spend my time worrying about the intricate stitching of word to word in something I might be writing.  Or perhaps just because it means everything can go into the wash together, which makes things easier.
 

 This poem, ’skirt’, was a way of thinking about my boyfriend and his relationship to clothes and also thinking about how clothes themselves - the way we might undress one another from them, the way they touch the skin, – are very sensual things. We went out to one of those restaurants where they disassemble every course so it resembles flat-pack food and charge you four times the price as a ready-made meal; we got drunk, we stumbled home and … well… you can read the rest.

Andrew McMillan

skirt

what possessed us?   heads flipflopped from the wine

the food so posh it needed commentary

from the waitress   each dish turned inside out

split into pieces      then   stumbling home

the stars so low they could have been driving

towards us      getting back   we began

 

the loose fall into each other that drink

always induces   the body too soft

to pull or hold      once we’d spun into the bedroom

I stepped back   requesting each item

taken off in turn   the shoes   the jacket   the shirt

each one flung with performed indifference

 

for the bottom half you’d gone for trousers

with a skirt over the top   to recall

the flavour of some catwalk show   I chose

the trousers next   left the skirt on you   the pleats

just long enough to cover your cock

and belted at your thin blades of stomach hair

 

your drunk   imperfect body in a skirt

moving with each swaying breath   looking like

some ancient tribesman   in something someone

might have fashioned out of leaves   to give room

for dancing   to give space to the body

to perform its speechless articulation of thanks

Andrew McMillan was born in South Yorkshire in 1988. His debut collection Physical was the first ever poetry collection to win The Guardian First Book Award. The collection also won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, a Somerset Maugham Award (2016), an Eric Gregory Award (2016) and a Northern Writers’ award (2014). It was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Costa Poetry Award, The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year 2016, the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Roehampton Poetry Prize and the Polari First Book Prize. It was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Autumn 2015. He lives in Manchester.

Andrew’s book Physical is available at Amazon

 andrewmcmillanpoet.co.uk

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