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Formica by Maggie Rainey-Smith


It’s hard not to think of those ubiquitous kitchen counters and still very much en vogue tables that still adorn cool flats in Grey Lynn. Indeed, it is those counters that also give the impetus to the images constructed in the collection of poetry by Maggie Rainey-Smith. A well-respected writer of the full gambit of disciplines, including reviewer (always a reminder to think carefully about one’s own words!) with the very envious position of being picked in the long list for the 2019 Fish Poetry Prize judged by the inimitable Billy Collins.


Formica journeys with Rainey-Smith through her fascinating life and the relationships within her family home - her father a war prisoner and veteran.


The poem, After the war is a beautifully constructed piece, poignant in its simplicity and imagery but so deftly crafted to respond to the expected life of austerity and control. Its tight structure emphasises this so effectively.


Often funny, the collection has a spectrum of concepts and perspectives that are reflective while fresh, providing the reader with a sense of control and style. For one, it is the beauty of the language choices that really set this collection apart from other modernist style writers. Relying not on gimmicks or shock, but on deeply crafted choices that represent a labour of love as much as an exploration of a life lived to the fullest.


The titular poem is also the finest in terms of the journey that the reader is taken on. That 1950s / 1960s feel just oozes off the page with each development of the technology described.


she was my hero

going over 60mph

on the Stoke straight


in her green Morris

Minor, a St Christopher

magnet on the dashboard

(“Formica” by Maggie Rainey-Smith)


Overall it is such a beautiful read from start to finish, and one that tracks along at a pace that keeps interest while really celebrating the beauty of the language.


Reviewer: Chris Reed

The Cuba Press