I’ve written a lot of poetry in my life. I’ve taken multiple classes on writing it. And yet, I don’t really enjoy reading it. Strange, I know, but it’s with this caveat that I come into reviewing Michael Butterworth’s Complete Poems.
I didn’t know anything about the author but the short biography at the beginning of the book revealed a fascinating life. Born in 1947, Butterworth has not only written poetry but also science fiction and non-fiction (he wrote a book about sitting in with New Order while they recorded “Blue Monday”). He startedSavoy Books in Manchester, U.K., and has a loose connection to The Cramps. (Savoy put out the Live at the Hacienda DVD.) Savoy also published Lord Horror, the last book to be banned in the U.K.
Complete Poems is broken down chronologically. It’s interesting to track Butterworth’s development as a poet. It was my hope that some of the poetry would match the interesting nature of his life. Instead, much of it is elementary and almost silly. Or, incredibly long and drawn-out. Poems like “Girl in Bath” are three short lines, while “Ghosts” goes on for eleven pages. Much of the content throughout is about love: for Butterworth’s significant others, his children, or friends. There are also poems that I can’t make heads or tails of. “Bus stop” reads simply: “If a pea / Is not a pea / When it is a flea, / Is a flea / Not a pea / When it is pea?” I’m not high enough to make any sense of this. There are many more such poems.
I’m not a poetry critic—I’m in no place to judge the overall effectiveness or quality here. If anything, what I took away from this book is I want to read is a full account of Butterworth’s intriguing life story. Much less so his poems. –Kurt Morris (spacecowboybooks.com)