WINNER OF THE FORWARD PRIZE BEST FIRST COLLECTION 2014
Poetry Book Society Recommendation 2014
Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award Winner 2014
Somerset Maugham Award Winner 2015
‘When I became a bird, Lord, nothing could not stop me…’
In Black Country, Liz Berry takes flight: to Wrens Nest, Gosty Hill, Tipton-on-Cut; to the places of home. The poems move from the magic of childhood – bostin fittle at Nanny’s, summers before school – into deeper, darker territory: sensual love, enchanted weddings, and the promise of new life.
In Berry’s hands, the ordinary is transformed: her characters shift shapes, her eye is unusual, her ear attuned to the sounds of the Black Country, with ‘vowels ferrous as nails, consonants / you could lick the coal from.’ Ablaze with energy and full of the rich dialect of the West Midlands, this is an incandescent debut from a poet of dazzling talent and verve.
Praise for Black Country
Black Country is an extraordinary debut…rooted in place. When you close the book, you can still see the Black Country in your mind’s eye, as if all the poems in it were coming together to form a continuous landscape, a single yet varied view. These poems need to be studied slowly yet there is, as one reads on, a sense of gathering speed, a flightiness, a readiness to soar… She writes, in the best sense, on a wing and a prayer. What marks out this writing is its sparing but assured use of Midlands dialect. This is writing of warmth, maturity and intermittent eroticism. Liz Berry knows her own flight-path, that is for sure.
(Kate Kellaway, The Observer)
Superb… a sooty, soaring hymn to her native West Midlands, scattered with words of dialect that light up the lines like lamps. Expect to hear a great deal more from her in years to come.
(Sarah Crown, Guardian)
This is as writer I’m thrilled to discover — someone who takes pride in the Midlands… turning ordinariness into something direct, tender and beautiful.
(Bel Mooney, Daily Mail)
“Berry’s nostalgic, dramatic and dialect-sprinkled poems bring a dream-like West Midlands into English verse” (Paul McCartney Sunday Times)
“Liz Berry is an extraordinary poet: passionate, precise, moving and deeply real. The voice and heat of the Black Country are here, the old tenderness and the complex strands of identity, the humour and the music.” (A.L. Kennedy)
“These are poems of great vitality and charm. Seasoned with the dialect of Liz Berry’s home territory, but with a linguistic and lyric freshness independent of that, they offer nourishment – right bostin fittle, in fact – to readers hungry for the real thing.” (Christopher Reid)
“Ecstatic, quicksilver poems, ablaze with originality, curiosity and a passion for words.” (Ruth Padel)
Liz Berry makes you look at the world differently. Her book is a real appreciation of a place that’s not often appreciated. She is a fresh, exciting and distinctive new voice. Her work is that rare thing, a collection that leaves you feeling full of real optimism and hope
(Jeremy Paxman, Forward Prize Judge)
I have wondered why the wit, warmth and energy of the West Midlands had no voice amongst the younger English poets. Now it has. Liz Berry is the Black Country’s shining daughter.