Culture Writer Heidi Downing reviews the poetry pamphlet Makeover, praising the book’s aesthetic visual design as well as its powerful writing

Written by H Downing
Images by Heidi Downing

Makeover, a poetry collection by Laurie Bolger, is a new publication from The Emma Press, an independent award-winning publishing house based in the heart of Birmingham. The Emma Press was founded in 2012 by Emma Dai’an Wright and the press specialises in poetry, short fiction, essays, and children’s books with an undeniably crucial mission to make publishing as accessible as possible for everyone. This new release by Bolger craftily combines the themes of nostalgia and perseverance to provide an exciting, new, experimental treat for any reader.

This new poetry book is brought to you by author Laurie Bolger, a London-based writer and founder of The Creative Writing Breakfast Club. Bolger has previously achieved huge accolades in their writing career such as being awarded The Moth Prize, being Highly Commended in the Forward Prize for Poetry, and appearing in The Poetry Review. Makeover is her second pamphlet publication and first time working with The Emma Press, a rich collaboration between poet and publisher that really brings her words to life in this latest pamphlet. These poems are rich in imagery and creativity, proving that she is a flourishing writing genius for this generation.

These poems are rich in imagery and creativity

Out of all the poems in Bolger’s Makeover, my favourite is ‘Dandelion.’ This is the shortest poem in the pamphlet and it stands out for this reason: every image is carefully evocative and powerful amidst the brevity of language choice. The poem showcases themes of determination for the underdog using the overarching conceit of the recognisable wildflower. The final line – ‘challenges the concrete’ – highlights an incredible sense of perseverance that is seen throughout the rest of Bolger’s poetry, creating a powerful message for the reader.

Something really striking about Makeover is the visual design elements. For example, the cover has a beautifully aesthetic quality, decorated in a pink colour palette with imagery that visualises clear moments from the poems, making it an artistic delight for any bookshelf. Something really clever about Bolger’s collection is the creativity with poetic structure and page layout. In fact, there are several moments in this collection where readers must rotate the book and read the poem sideways. Using layout in this way ensures readers are, quite literally, taken on an emotional journey through the course of the poems. 

An artistic delight for any bookshelf

Another pleasing design element that readers are graced with is artistic page breakers, such as flowers (‘Fried Eggs’ and ‘Your Body Isn’t Glamorous’) and hearts (‘Nan’). Playful layout and aesthetic features are prominent qualities in many pamphlets published by The Emma Press, and it works well to bring to life the words and creative ideas of Bolger in a visually pleasing way. 

In summary, Makeover is a personal collection of poems by talented writer Laurie Bolger, centred around the themes of body weight, family, and perseverance. It is as delightful to read as it is to visually admire making it a clever poetic treat to indulge in as a reader. Published on February 15th 2024, it is a cosy and comforting read – the perfect combination for a post-Valentine’s Day treat.

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