At its heart a collection of love poems, Because we could not dance at the wedding is about coming out, coming to terms and settling down. Through a series of vividly observed scenes – from single-bedded student flat to registry office waiting room, from a clumsy hotel-room dance to the enforced domestic retreat of lockdown – these poems chronicle a relationship across two decades. Michael McKimm, whose work has been described as ‘powerfully tactile’ (Penelope Shuttle) and ‘delicately momentous’ (TLS), has developed a gently radical urban-pastoral, where beating the bounds of his east London neighbourhood may be a negotiation with anxiety and threat, but is always – ultimately – a celebration of falling in love and finding joy in an uncertain world.
Michael McKimm’s Because we could not dance at the wedding tells the story of a queer couple, reminding us of the beauty of a life shared, whether birdwatching, travelling on the London Underground, or joining a Pride parade. McKimm could be a queer Robert Frost or a modern Wordsworth, but McKimm is an inheritor of Michael Longley too with the crafted phrasing, the lyric quality, and quiet beauty. There is much to enjoy in the careful attention and gorgeous moments of intimacy recorded with care and authenticity. Michael McKimm is a brilliant writer on relationships, about nature, about the wondrous details of being alive. – Zoë Brigley
Michael McKimm is that objet d’art discovered at a car-boot sale – surprise turning to excitement as the item is rolled slowly in the hand. With this new collection, McKimm’s abilities once again skilfully illuminate the seemingly mundane; the flaneur constrained by lockdown measures peering out of his window, still driven to celebrate the world. Similarly, McKimm rejects restrictions on gay relationships and practices, and instead argues for, and honours, gay love in defiant and compassionate ways. However, poetry is never sacrificed for the conveyance of a reductive message; instead McKimm employs poetry’s full tool-kit. Turn this work in your hand, study it, observe its beauty. – Paul Maddern
Cover photograph by Birk Thomassen