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
“Michael McKimm writes beautifully, at once vivid, embodied and restrained. […] What a marvellous ear McKimm has. As his reader I was engaged by openness, alertness and love, qualities which characterise this memorable, sensitive collection.”
Jean Atkin. The wide-ranging review, with close analysis of poems and themes, can be read online at London Grip.
Offers many pleasures for the reader […] McKimm’s work focuses on what is “secure”. No, not safe: rather those qualities that endure and stabilize the mind within a relationship or within the world. […] Certainly, McKimm knows his poetical roots […] But the real delight in McKimm’s poetry is how he is not predictable and breaks new ground. He is acutely aware of language and how to bring a poem alive with a sharp phrase. […] This book offers a real variety of poetical forms. And what is really noticeable is how McKimm is prepared to write the long poem, the poem that goes where it wants to go. […] In “What the River Carries”, McKimm demonstrates two qualities that bind this volume together: his eye for perception and ear for music. […] At last, a poetry book worth re-reading!
Andrew Howdle, read the full review at Goodreads
Michael reads from the collection on Eat the Storms Poetry Podcast