Thursday, 24 December 2020

The Festive Backroom 8: Liz Berry

Liz Berry's first book of poems, 'Black Country' (Chatto 2014), described as a ‘sooty, soaring hymn to her native West Midlands’ (Guardian) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, received a Somerset Maugham Award and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award and Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2014. Liz's pamphlet 'The Republic of Motherhood' (Chatto, 2018) was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice and the title poem won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2018. A new book of her collaboration with photographer Tom Hicks will be published by Hercules Editions in 2021. 

'Blue Heaven'  is what we need this morning and every morning, a prayer to the past but also a poem to the bustling, vibrant, tragic, temporary blast that is the human spirit, that is love. Liz Berry is a fine poet (she wouldn't be in the Backroom, otherwise) but she is also an ecstatic poet, so let us enjoy this moment of fierce reflection and joy, inspired by one of the photographs in her new collaboration.

Blue Heaven 

Our poem which art in blue heaven, 

give us this morning, 

daffodils spilling Spring's song like yolk, 

moss sporing on the guttering, snug 

for wet-the-beds; jenny-wren and weeping birch 

watching over us, our unanswered emails 

and half-built Lego palaces, milk cups 

and toast crumbs, photographs of us 

in the nineties, drunk and so in love 

we look like children. 

Give us griefs and small kindnesses, 

wunce apon a time in clumsy boy's hand 

on the back of a phone bill, 

library books and Germolene, sanitary towels 

soaked with clotted rubies, 

pyjamas shed beneath the bunkbeds 

like adder skins, money spiders, stories, 

the nights we touch in darkness 

with that wild honeymilk of recognition. 

Tenderise our hearts to all that is holy: 

the dog and her blanket, the playgroup collage, 

and forgive us our trespasses - 

pulling tight the shutters on our hearts 

when others are knocking, 

cussing in the night when we stumble to the cot. 

Teach us to love each other as the tree loves the rain, 

never wasting a drop. 

Liz's Website:

Liz on Frank Skinner's Poetry Podcast:

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