Liz Berry

Mastered: Literature
Location: Dudley

Liz Berry has a wonderful ability to bring the Black Country dialect to life with her poems. From ‘Tipton-on-Cut’ to the Wrens Nest her poems tell stories of the magic of childhood to love and have gained her fans the breadth of the country.

Lighting up the Black Country in a unique way, Liz’s debut collection of poems, Black Country (Chatto & Windus, 2014), was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, received a Somerset Maugham Award, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award and won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2014. Black Country was chosen as a book of the year by The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Mail, The Big Issue and The Morning Star. It was described as "a sooty, soaring hymn to her native West Midlands, scattered with words of dialect that light up the lines like lamps" (Guardian).

Liz’s poems have been broadcast on BBC Radio, television and recorded for the Poetry Archive. She has been a judge for major prizes including The Forward Prizes for Poetry and Foyle Young Poets. Liz works as a tutor for The Arvon Foundation, Writer’s Centre Norwich and Writing West Midlands.

Birmingham Roller

“We spent our lives down in the blackness… those birds brought us up to the light.”
(Jim Showell – Tumbling Pigeons and the Black Country)

Wench, yowm the colour of ower town:
concrete, steel, oily rainbow of the cut.

Ower streets am in yer wings,
ower factory chimdeys plumes on yer chest,

yer heart’s the china ower owd girls dust
in their tranklement cabinets.

Bred to dazzlin in backyards by men
whose onds grew soft as feathers

just to touch you, cradle you from egg
through each jeth-defying tumble.

Little acrobat of the terraces,
we’m winged when we gaze at you

jimmucking the breeze, somersaulting through
the white breathed prayer of January

and rolling back up like a babby’s yo-yo
caught by the open donny of the clouds.

Poem courtesy of Liz Berry.

Photo by Adrian Pope

Liz Berry's Website

Liz Berry, Society of Authors Annual Awards at Army and Navy Club Pall Mall St James London SW1