New from Space Cowboy Books: Michael Butterworth Complete Poems 1965-2020 releases Feb. 3rd 2023, available for pre-order now!
For more than fifty years Michael Butterworth, better known for his work as a writer, editor and publisher, has also been a quiet unobtrusive voice in poetry, with roots lying both in the small press poetry journals of the sixties and seventies and in New Wave of Science Fiction. His work is distinguished as much for the restless intelligence, wit and intimacy of his voice as a determination, shown in many of these poems, to paint metaphorical pictures of the perils we face due to our poor regard for the fragile biosphere in which we live. In other poems, he finds, within the events of an ordinary life, scope for the transcendent, and in still others his use of nonsense and absurdity playfully captures the moment, puncturing the illusions of the self. Across his work, elements are reiterated but endlessly transfigured –
Across Michael Butterworth’s work, elements are reiterated but endlessly transfigured – hitchhiking girlfriends, elm trees, the moon, astronauts, the space race, collage artists, misophonia, marriage, divorce, beached whales, clifftops, the sea, the seasons, mental block, ale houses, the chemical laboratory, ambition, madness, pain, death and impermanence, silver birch trees, suicide, Zazen, riots, train seating indicators, camping, the Welfare State, crows and seagulls, the racist English and Canada geese… are some of his subjects. The subjects of destruction – war, the consumer society, ‘progress’, humanity’s inhumanity, the doings of men (and the necessity of a new woman), galactic war, drug wars, hunting – are never far away, hopefully countered by the tone of optimism found in his later poems inspired by Buddhist philosophy. The effect is at once familiar and yet profound, in language that has the confessional qualities and simplicity of early influences such as Sylvia Plath and the Beats, and the later influence of Zen poets such as Ryōkan. Occasionally the writing is startlingly radical – a reminder of the poet’s beginnings in the New Wave. A collection such as this one from Space Cowboy Books is overdue, and Complete Poems: 1965-2020 brings to more deserving attention a less heard voice in modern poetry.
“Michael Butterworth’s poetry is rolling news from a since-outlawed territory of ideas; bulletins filed from a redacted country, edited out of cultural continuity. In beautifully clear language, human moments are examined as though artefacts dug from the future, or the debris of a missing world. Caught in a jeweller’s eyepiece, fugitive impressions from near sixty years of subterranean endeavour here condense to lyric crystal, ringing with the poet’s radical and laser-guided voice. This is a wonderful collection, mined from times that aren’t supposed to happen. Lose yourself inside it.”
-Alan Moore – author of Watchmen, From Hell and Jerusalem