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The title of Liz Berry’s first, multi-award-winning poetry collection, Black Country, signals her place of birth – and unsurprisingly the book was described by reviewers as a ‘sooty, soaring hymn to her native West Midlands’. A more symbolic place is visited in her second pamphlet, The Republic of Motherhood, which maps the transformative experience of giving birth and raising her children. Suzannah V. Evans explored Liz Berry’s personal landscapes in conversation at the StAnza Poetry Festival.
At the start of the podcast, Liz Berry explains why she wanted to write using the Black County dialect, one that is often maligned outside of the region but that has a rich hoard of words and guttural tones. She wanted to experiment: was it possible to take the Black Country language and say “yes this is the stuff of poetry and make poems out of it”?
The range of dialects and delight in unusual words prompt Liz and Suzannah to recall how the diversity of poetry in childhood anthologies and the pleasure kids take from verbal puzzles could teach us adults much about the accessibility and potential range that the poetic form can achieve.
Childhood and motherhood are also key themes in Liz Berry’s most recent pamphlet, The Republic of Motherhood, a call to the common experiences of giving birth and raising a child that can be both wondrous and tedious.
The podcast concludes with a reading of three poems: ‘Homing’ and ‘The Sea of Talk’, from Black Country, and the titular ‘The Republic of Motherhood’.
Photo credit: Suzannah V. Evans.