This is Maggie Butt's sixth full collection in a poetry career of almost twenty years. It has been described as “a mature, devastating and ultimately redemptive work” (Jacqueline Saphra) and it is all of that and much more. My reasons for reviewing it were completely selfish in that I knew that a previous collection had been built on real lives, historical interviews and photographs, an area of writing of particular interest to me post an MA thesis using social media data and imagery to create a collection.
Her new collection starts with a sequence of poems inspired by the work of the painter Mary Behrens and her photographs of refugees, and these poems are beautiful, focusing on the small, the relatable, to make tangible the refugee experience – in the poem "Shoes," she asks the simple question, if you had to leave your home, which one pair of shoes would you take with you? Sometimes it’s those tiny questions that help us to have some understanding of what losing everything might feel like and in a way that avoids the polemical or the obvious.
Butt's background in journalism, the ability to use small details to make larger statements and her razor-sharp observation to draw the reader in to empathise and share emotions and experiences are everywhere in this collection. These range from the title poem “everlove” which explores loss – the loss of an earring and the loss of a person and ends “the earring turned up caught on a sock / and you are here deep in the core of me” - to “The Repair Shop,” written during lockdown but which manages to say something new about an experience when for many of us, nothing was new or interesting.
This is a beautiful, deft, and polished collection which will bear reading and re-reading for a very long time.
Cathi Rae is currently working on a PhD looking at marginalised lives and poetry. She has recently been awarded a Midlands 4 Cities scholarship to fund this work.