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Review by Eleanor Benson.
The eighth edition of the biannual poetry magazine, Butcher’s Dog, includes twenty-five hand-picked poems from over one thousand submissions. Supported by New Writing North and funded by the Arts Council England, the magazine embraces a range of UK poets with diverse voices, subjects and backgrounds.
Butcher’s Dog is inclusive of all writers regardless of their past experience. In their eighth edition, you will find poets who have received accolades including the Northern Writer’s Award alongside the budding poetic talent of an accountant and undergraduate student. The beauty of the anthology stems from its rousing eclecticism, and its seeming lack of continuity. The willingness to traverse wide-ranging subjects makes the turn of each page a stimulating read.
I am yet to come across a poetry magazine similar to Butcher’s Dog, both in its ambition and its willingness to excite. It manages to span the spectacular, the mundane and everything in between through its themes and aforementioned inclusivity. Subjects range from peeling potatoes, ancient Peruvian sex, and dead sheep, to the hallucinatory and gritty monologue Headache (hoofbeats) by Alex Harper.
Poems that particularly stood out for me included The Deluge by Joanna Sedgwick for its hilariously childlike voice, and The Leaving Do by Matthew Paul. Both are relatable in the most surrealistic sense of the term, and are more enjoyable as a result of their abstraction. Elsewhere, haunting pieces such as the enigmatic Ladies of Pearson Park by Selina Rodrigues and Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s tale My Father Shows Me His Knuckles, juxtapose the everyday wit of the speaker with subject material that is loaded with emotion. My Father Shows Me His Knuckles is particularly arresting, ‘’I cradle his hand in both of mine/and read the storm/ that blows all the way/from his childhood.’’ I also loved L Kiew’s Of Walls: ‘’eleven the grey slap of concrete rendered/twelve/ stone drilled through –crumbing/thirteen an aperture-/’’, which is innovative in its form but still manages to achieve visceral moments of revelation.
In any case, this little A5 book is a delight to behold. Encased in a crisp cover with a hilarious watercolour painting of a grinning mermaid on the front, Butcher’s Dog is concise, minimal and accessible, especially for those who are not usually poetry-lovers. An index of all the contributors’ biographies can be found at the back, detailing their major work and links for more if you fancy delving deeper after having read their work.
All issues of Butcher’s Dog are available to buy here.