Poet Andrew McMillan’s “beautiful, courageously honest and disarmingly vulnerable” collection has won a new literary prize for work that explores LGBT issues.

McMillan, a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the Manchester Writing School, scooped the inaugural Polari Prize for his second collection playtime.

Its intimate, sometimes painfully frank poems explore the different ways we grow into our sexual selves and our adult identities.

He received the Polari Prize from judge and joint 2019 Booker Prize winning author Bernardine Evaristo, who hailed McMillan for “exploring coming of age, masculinity and sexuality in ways that move and surprise. His poetic voice is completely natural and free, with no pretence or attempts to obfuscate meaning, yet the work has emotional complexity, power and depth.”

It is the latest in a number of accolades for McMillan, whose 2015 debut collection physical was the first poetry collection to win The Guardian First Book Award, while playtime was named a Poetry Book of the Year by the Sunday Times.  Earlier this year, he was shortlisted for the prestigious Oxford Professor of Poetry position.

McMillan said: “It’s an honour to win the first ever Polari Prize for playtime – and to receive the award from new Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo was a joy!”

The new Polari Prize joins the Polari First Book Prize, which was launched in 2011, and for which physical was shortlisted. This year’s winners were announced at the Southbank Centre as part of the London Literature Festival.


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