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Black Country

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  135 ratings  ·  25 reviews
‘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
Paperback, 80 pages
Published August 7th 2014 by Chatto Windus
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4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  135 ratings  ·  25 reviews

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Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Jocco
Shelves: poetry
A poetry book that I cannot put down but read in a single day from cover to cover. Yes there have been a few and not more. The topics covered in its 42 poems include many that are amusing, as with "when you bought me a milk pan for Christmas," or the fantasy of her day in red dancing shoes. I loved the idea that she might become patron saint of school girls, making possible an "unforeseen triumph in the hockey final." I enjoyed her imagery, as in Christmas Eve, when "the tower blocks are advent ...more
Debbie Kinsey
I absolutely loved this poetry collection. Berry is from the Black Country, and the collection is centred around that area and its dialect, but it is also more broadly about what home is, about leaving the place you grew up and going back to it, and growing up generally. I love the way she uses imagery like

For years you kept your accent
in a box beneath the bed,
the lock rusted shut by hours of elocution

I sometimes struggle with dialect but it works really well in this collection, tying the poem
M.J. J Mallon
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
4 stars.
Trying to read some poetry to broaden my reading experience, particularly as I am now writing haikus on my blog. This is an excellent book of poems can see why it won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2014. It is a Brave New Reads choice: Highly recommended.
Steven R
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of my New Year's resolutions was to read more poetry, and I'm so pleased I chose Liz Berry's 'Black Country' to get me started. This really is a superb collection of poems and Liz Berry is a highly-skilled poet. Her familiarity with and love for the Black Country is evident throughout this book, with Berry's ingenious use of Black Country dialect in many of these poems a real joy to experience.
As someone who was born and grew up on the fringes of the Black Country, it's really refreshing to
Aug 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Tanya Petrova
May 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Due to my age and/or background not many poems in the collection resonated with me, but I really enjoyed the usage of the Midlands dialect (correct me if there's a better term).

Call me old-fashioned, but I love rhyme and meter in my poetry. It's also a little sad that to describe her sexual experiences a woman has to conceal them as much as Liz did.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don't read a lot of poetry. I love listening to Liz Berry so I thought I would take a stab at reading her. I thought I would read one or two poems at a time, but I ended up reading the entire collections in one sitting. Her poems for her father and her mother were the most moving for me. She is able to conjure up such a clear image of where she was raised.
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I loved this book of poetry - both poems with and without the Dudley accent and the colloquiums of the West Midlands. If you read it, you also have to look at the Youtube videos of Liz Berry reading them as they do come alive. My favourites were “Homing” as it reminds me of family accents lost, and “The Last Lady Ratcatcher”. Enjoy!
Neil Fulwood
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A Forward Prize winner for a Best First Collection in 2014, ‘Black Country’ is an astoundingly confident debut: tactile, immediate, full of linguistic flair and shot through with the chewy nuances of her native West Midlands dialect.
Roy Beckemeyer
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Liz Berry is an extraordinary poet. I found her work invigorating and in fact it inspired me to write poems for which I used lines from her work as epigraphs in my own. Highly recommended.

Serge Neptune
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
My standout poems: The Silver Birch, Fishwife, Darling Blue Eyes.
Parrish Lantern
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Birmingham Roller.

“We spent our lives down in the blackness……those bird
brought us up to the light” – Jim Showell, Tumbling pigeons & 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-defy
Jan 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Ah . . Nope. Sorry. Most of these poems did't do much for me. They are beautifully executed, there's not a word out of place, some nice imagery, a wonderful variety of forms that Liz Berry shows that she's mastered but . . . .they just didn't resonate. And it's not just a matter of taste. I like poems about identity, sexuality, local history and lore. I like Vicki Feaver and Jo Shapcott and Carol Ann Duffy. I like the idea of using myth and metamorphosis and animism to explore these themes. It's ...more
Helen Calcutt
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is a book about nostalgia, shaped in a very nostalgic format, almost to the point of being sickly. I'm surprised. I've heard Liz Berry read, and read her earlier work and it's superb. What happened? Is this down to editorial process? The ego? Both probably. Something occurs when poets move beyond a certain point. For some reason they seem to stop listening. The choral fire within starts to shudder and wane. Up to this point I've often felt there's something else at work in Berry's poetry. N ...more
Aug 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Yes, it's as good as I thought it would be. Liz Berry captures The Black Country with affection, humour and realism. A few of my favourite moments: '..yowm the colour of ower town' (Birmingham Roller), '..salwaar'd in blue-pop and cherryade silk' (Tipton-On-Cut), '..lovely silver can-can dancing scissors.' (Carmella), 'My interest in you became geological' (Stone), 'Tek yer books an' yer sense an' keep on walking,/even if yo hear me blarting, dow ever turn back' (My Mother's Wedding Shoes). Wond ...more
David Jordan
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
A few of the poems in this collection are written in a north country dialect with which the author must have been familiar growing up. There are even some terms defined in the margins. I felt like I was an international traveler receiving an education while simultaneously being awed by the magical lyricism of the verse. One of my favorite collections this year.
Jan 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good humored and enjoyable book although the world it depicts is as dated as gorblimey trousers and Andy Capp. It is though a literary work, and as such lives within its limits. As a modern use of Black Country dialect it's far less expressive than Kate Fletcher's paraphrases of sections of the Bible. That said, it was fun.
Barrie Bromley
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent little volume of poetry from a locally born woman who, has won several awards and much critical acclaim for her work. There are some instances where she uses Black Country dialect. This however, does not detract from the enjoyment of reading this work.
Katie Carpenter
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful volume. By turns funny, lyrical, sensual and chilling and the dialect is used with brilliant effect. However, they should have banned the use of the word 'bostin' from all reviews and puffs.
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I loved this book of poetry. I loved When I was a boy, which I read to my y6 kids. I also really enjoyed miss berry, how children are rolled across the gym mats like coloured marbles. I felt moved by my mothers wedding shoes and grasshopper warbler.
Chris Lilly
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Really lovely. Lyrical, assured, well-purposed, with an exceptional ear for the music of dialect. And Brummagem dialect, be it noted. Boostin'.
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Elizabeth Smith
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John King
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Helen Wilson
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Poetry Readers Ch...: Black Country by Liz Berry 3 6 Jul 12, 2018 08:49AM  
Liz Berry was born in the Black Country and now lives in Birmingham. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway and received an Eric Gregory Award in 2009. Her poems have appeared in many of the major UK magazines and on BBC Radio. She was the winner of the 2012 Poetry London competition and a 2012 Arvon-Jerwood mentee. Her debut pamphlet The Patron Saint of School Girls was published b ...more
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