Jonathan Morley Interviews Poet Liz Berry



I'm John Molly I'm here with the poet this very interviewing her as part of the brave new reads promotion that writers sense no returns we're in Cambridge library Central Library and it's the 1st of July 2015 this you're right I am I am thank you it was a wonderful day you're reading this evilly and and you know there's black country voices that you know didn't live there myself into here like coming through in both the the poetry and the way you spoke about poetry so thank you and I wondered if we could perhaps start with you know a fairly obvious couple of lines from your book from the poem Birmingham roller which Georgia surtees and the other week when you were in Norwich misheard he confessed later as burning umbrella did the surreal besides I think it's a rather different kind of bird and the Birmingham roller is this pigeon that somersaults backwards out of the flock the opening lines wench young the color of our town concrete steel oily rainbow of the cut I wondered what flock you feel that you somersaulted out to start writing poems and to to bring this book to life interesting question the book really comes from growing cotton from the chayote in the Black Country but I don't think it could have been written I do not moved away at some point that's a really important part of if the journey for me and of the work for me that moving away from the area I was able to see in a new way love was longing you have a place where you don't live anymore where you once were once had a life and that longing and that feeling you've formed lots of the poems in the book and and that tension between wanting to be in a place and wanting to pull away from it and become something new and try a new kind of flight did you move to study at university or seven people yeah I left home and went to study at University in Edinburgh so it's a big move in both sorts of ways not just geographically and it really made me think about family in a different way about the region where I came from I think when you grow up in place you're not really aware of it or aware that there are places that it isn't and I'm so going away it just gave me a new perspective on everything and there's a tension there isn't there a paradox I've heard other voices talk about so leaving the place you said yourself some clarifies it some up to the ricer of course sometimes the people who can't leave you know can they therefore write their own voices and so you know at what extent do you feel URIs a custodian a spokesperson almost for for people in the Black Country just quite big shoes to fill and I feel that I'm pleased to be able to show the accent and the dialect in an interesting and beautiful way I'm pleased I can tell stories about the history of the region about the lives of ordinary people about their families families like mine that lived in that area for years and worked in its industries I feel really proud that I've got the opportunity to speak about that and to tell that story but to be a spokesperson for an area that's quite big job so I think I can speak from my life and my family and my experiences and the people I've met and my feelings about it but can't speak for everybody I don't think anyone ever can areas of diverse and mixed and complicated and multicultural so the voices that you hear in the book that's just a tiny little thread of what runs through the area pretty well put I wonder if in this flock so to push the the conceit further mother other poets in there who have helped you on your journey that either people you've read or post about she worked with today Oh poets from the air bureaucrats anyway you've encountered people you've met I'm gonna throw one or two possibility very belated hello to you yes I think that for me Pope she's always been really coming thing right through for my nose the video and writer I've always loved being part of groups and workshop groups hearing what the poet speaking with other poets we didn't know were listening to them having their very using their advice and for me that still continues now I really value and the communal aspect of it so there's lots of perks that have influenced me either there's I've worked we with ISIF read probably two poets have been really significant in terms of practical work in my writing and the Josh Alcott he was my teacher at University and then doubted my growth he was my mentor who's hugely influential on the book and on the use of dialect and tone stories and making myths have your own life that's really interesting I saw somewhere that a legit had mentored you and I think one similarity that comes I'm not lost in every poem but in some of them particularly the more dialect poems if thought of a better word actually it is a similarity with some of Talde this approach particularly in the first book you know the the song of the chap who owns the corner shop yes sing song and and the way he sort of I don't quite know how to describe this it's not dialect writing exactly were sort of pushing an image through the poet and keeping on you know sort of am writing variations on this image and somehow at the end of it you're left with a dialect voice because the person's speaker's personality has been built out of the building box of what they know or what we we sort of populate around them I mean did you to talk about that manure when you were writing some of these pieces like homing for instance I think I find out it's where it really inspire me because it's incredibly playful and it uses that playfulness and that sort of wildness that free freedom with language doesn't very difficult and challenging things and to use dialect in a way that isn't just simply narrative or humorous because sometimes be lyrical complex can build characters in lively and difficult ways so that's why I find to be inspiring but particularly that sense of playing that freedom with language I'm not writing dialect I think there's a big concern that you can get bound up in that you have to be completely accurate with the dialect and you must get you must phonetic spell everything can you must get all the words boy but then see language is so shape-shifting and fluid and playful in itself but I think this should feel freed and empowered to play with it a bit to use nipple to make up words if we want to to make new hybrids to spell things in different ways and you can't really ever pin down a dialect you can't accurately transcribe it because everyone speaks a little differently pronounces it a little differently so it's almost an impossible challenge in a way that's quite liberating you think quite well let's have some fun then let's see what we can do with it see how far we can pull it yeah it's involving you you were able to make it a lot evolving and I suppose what I meant about the the image I'm struggling to express it properly but I mean and homing in the potent homing again you have the pigeon imagery in the title but then also you know these phrases of the vowels as ferrous as males the consonants you could lick the call from the pits the railways the factories the red brick and all this sort of visual imagery that is so serious it was strongly with the West Midlands sort of coming through it becomes the fabric of sort of how that how the speaker expresses yourself in the peppermints this sort of this imagery rather than just vocabulary of the Midlands you know what I mean it's almost like creating that's the place of its components its images that symbols its landscape its industry look that's me Kahn really fascinating about telling stories and making myths about the place where you come from perhaps even more super surplice not normally associated with the ground or the mythical of the magical or that worthy of storytelling do you know what Joe Louie McNeese his poem about Vermeer oh yeah yeah yeah you've got it on the Fulani this I thought you must be familiar with it seems to me to be doing something similar I think he only worked there for a few years didn't do in the early thirties but you know there's this sort of stream of images you know beyond this Center the Sun would Vista thins like a diagram there unvisited or Vulcans forges who doesn't care tinker stone splayed outwards through the suburbs houses houses forests seducing Lee wreaked by the Builder offed him but houses of lips pressed so tightly and eyes staring at the traffic through blurry whores and only a six inch grip of the racing earth in their concrete claws in the trends and then it also yeah the picture has built up feelings of light by lying here in the sort of the building blocks you know all the landscape part of the city you know and I think there's something similarly going on in your work several reviewers interviewers have commented on darkness in this volume and in a dark and and color and the role those planet know and I think has talked about dirt to the muck and the this just of wallowing in grime and modern certain new ones reflect on that it's very interesting yeah I suppose for me when I think of that people do talk about the dark mists or not dome and I think that the black mix of the black could it tree but I think if you actually form the black country then or you know the area you probably associate the blackness with mock with dirt a little filth and that's the be subversive idea and lots of ways because it it's both repulsive and fascinating and and delightful and it's where the I suppose the dark side of the erotic can be found and especially of sensuality and women's sensuality and so that's why I was quite interested to explore in some of the poems that people have talked about is mercy and I think it birth use this closer they can get to same sort of the dirt or the feel it's the look of it but so I think great work and this Barry thank you very much

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