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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wherever girls’ voices are lost, / I am, 24 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Black Country (Kindle Edition)
Black Country is Liz Berry’s first full poetry collection and it leads off with “Bird” in which the poet is transformed. The choice is appropriate for a first collection as "Bird" is one of those statements of poetic intent that poets write early in their career, laying claim to their domain:

I raised my throat to the wind
and this is what I sang…

It is also an appropriate statement of intent for the collection: birds roost everywhere in its pages - starlings, throstles, wrens, sparrows, swallows, larks, pigeons filthy with petrol - in poems ranging from the documentary Grasshopper Warbler to the fantasy of The Year We Married Birds.

A lot of the early poems are written in the persona of Berry's younger self and have a wonderful, ferocious energy. Her use of dialect and phonetic spelling fully justifies the title of the book. I think that dialect is technically hard to pull off in poetry: it often feels like the poet is stretching for an authenticity or a connection that they do not have the rights to, even when that is not the case. Everything in Black Country is earned and unaffected. Berry has lived and breathed these words, or if she hasn’t she’s such a damned good writer that it doesn’t matter. The book switches effortlessly between poems in “pure” English, poems spotted with local cant, and poems larded with dialect like Sow, without any obvious change in quality or authorial control.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bostin' collection, 5 Oct. 2014
By 
K. Golding - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Country (Kindle Edition)
I resisted buying this even after loving a poem I had read from it somewhere as I am wary of the disappointment that often follows the purchase of well-reviewed collections by creative-writing graduates. And I have spent a lifetime trying to keep my accent 'in a box beneath the bed,/the lock rusted shut by hours of elocution/how now brown cow' - a West Midlands accent is not regarded very highly, something Berry wants to change. She wants to make the

'vowels ferrous as nails, consonants

you could lick the coal from'

- the whole Black Country culture which was the backbone of British industry, a subject for poetry. I was unable to resist, anyway, and am delighted that I bought it, and that Berry has just won the Felix Dennis Prize for it, which suggests that the voice has travelled (though the judges' agenda appeared to include the desire to spread the love of poetry to the masses - not that I'm quibbling with that).

So - there are strong 'dialect' words here, requiring on page transition for the uninitiated. There are lots of references to Midlands life, which seems to be carrying on just as it did when I was a girl, many years ago - Berry has the poetic skill that allows her poems to be firmly rooted in place and yet to transcend both time and place, as in the brilliant Christmas Eve, when 'the Black Country is tinselled by sleet'. The collection opens with a poem called 'Bird,' the bird we have to become to leave our (wren's'! in-joke) nest and find our voices and fly away, and birds fly throughout, allowing access to the unknowable, letting the imagination soar. A fairytale magic pervades many of the poems - I was reminded, oddly, of Chagall. And I actually cried at one point,something that rarely happens, on reading My Mother's Wedding Shoes, with its ending:

'Walk away, mah wench, from this town, that wedding.
Tek your books an' yer sense an' keep on walking,

even if yo hear me blarting, dow ever turn back.'

That makes me cry both as a mother and as a daughter. Sadly on a wider level I suppose it also means that perhaps we have to get far from our roots before we can appreciate them.

I thank Liz Berry for giving me back 'my' Black Country. She has written a brilliant collection that also lyrically covers family love ('traipsing home with your dad from the pit's/black skeleton, your hand in his pocket, close as a kiss') girls growing up, discovering sex and love, death and birth, personal yet universal, so - something for everyone!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Country, 20 Aug. 2014
By 
ACB(swansea) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Country (Kindle Edition)
Liz Berry's first collection of poetry opens with 'Bird', a recurrent theme of flight throughout her work. The emotions resonate with her inevitable movement as a girl when ' nothing could stop me' and her mother's voice chorused, 'Tek flight, chick, goo far for the winter. So I left girlhood behind me like blue egg and stepped off the window ledge'. Liz Berry carries her poetry through her experiences from childhood to those of an adult. Her phrasing moves from straight lines to those encompassing her roots. Having to cope with school that taught, 'English', is emphasised in her box beneath the bed. 'I wanted that box, jemmied open to let years of lost words spoil out - bibble, fettle, tay, wum, vowels as ferrous as nails, consonants you could lick coal from. I wanted to swallow them all: the pits, railways,..back to where you were born in..like pigeons fluttering home'.

Liz Berry's 'Black Country' poetry is exceptional, incorporating a community dialect into her delivery. The result is a success for the writer and a joy for readers from whatever background. It is a particular delight for my Dudley family. Highly recommended, as are the still obtainable 'Black Country Night Out' recordings with Harry Harrison, Jon Raven, Tommy Mundon, Brian Clift and the inimitable comedienne Dolly Allen. Wholesome but far less poetic than Liz Berry's delicate and poignant lines.
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5.0 out of 5 stars At almost the last possible moment, a genuine bard of the unsung Black Country, 21 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Black Country (Paperback)
I'm not a Blackcountryman, but I was married to a Black Country wife, and Liz Berry speaks for her - and her parents, both born over a hundred years ago, and her relationship with them and their world. What she speaks in isn't the Black Country language she draws on but the English of her schooling - this is honest, too, because it's the tongue in which she addresses her individuality. It's a difficult task - the only writer I know of who attempted anything like it is DJ Enright, who, as a Leavisite WEA lecturer, approached parts of West Bromwich (Swan Village, for example) in almost the same way, but the post-forties rhetoric he used, which almost seems to telegraph that he is expressing feelings he thinks he ought to have, resulted in some pretty bad poems. In his later work he sometimes writes easily in the speech rhythms of and exploits the poses and tricks of the natural Black Country story-tellers he would have known as a child, and later, about things that on the face of it have nothing to do with the Black Country but seen through Black Country eyes and heard through Black Country ears - his well-kown "The Quagga" is a marvellously wry example of this, and can only be really understood as a Black Country poem. But these story-tellers were male, and drew on an accepted family or social status understood by their audience. Liz Berry can't do more than evoke that world, which is dying, and it's hard to see where she might go from here. But it will be exciting to see where she heads. I hope she gets there with her sensitivity and her sense of her roots intact.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming, 1 Nov. 2014
By 
M. A. Topping "anjitopping" (Cheshire UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Black Country (Paperback)
This is a really enjoyable collection of poetry, focusing on the Midlands and using words special to that area. I am not from there but the poems evoked many memories of characters and places I have known. Liz Berry's poems are accessible, inventive and spare. There is a relish for life in this book which I found quite moving. Berry won a first collection prize for this book and it is easy to see why. Even if you find poetry difficult, this book will not confound or befuddle, but bring pleasure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ” and her “fingers jewelling like ten hummingbirds, 17 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Black Country (Kindle Edition)
Then we’re off, up and away. A nightdress is ‘shed’ to “the drowning arms of the dark” as Berry transforms into a bird. The choice of verb and simile is striking, compelling. She finds her “bones hollowing to slender pipes,” her shoulder blades “tufting down,” and her “fingers jewelling like ten hummingbirds.” The diction’s flightly, the hummingbirds a stretch for the Midlands, but we’re back to ground immediately with her “feet callousing to knuckly claws” (my emphasis).

Read the rest of the review: http://www.r-o-y.org/2015/03/poetry-sampler-2.html
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5.0 out of 5 stars Liz Berry I honestly believe you could become poet laureate in the future., 29 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Black Country (Paperback)
This was a wonderful Christmas present from my husband -he knows how much I loved my Black Country home where I was born and how much I love poetry.'Black Country 'is the most amazing collection of poetry I have read in a long time.These poems make me weep because I realize how little I appreciated what a rich culture and lovely people I left behind when I was 18 years old.Liz I honestly believe you could become another female poet Laureate in the future-and thank you for these poems-Jan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant new talent in the world of poetry!, 6 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Black Country (Paperback)
This is an excellent first collection by a very talented young poet. Highly recommended!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Wonderful., 24 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Black Country (Paperback)
I fell in love with Liz Berry's poems from the first reading. I am simply in awe that someone is able to weave words so skilfully and produce the most amazing results. My childhood flashed before me and I smiled at beautiful memories of wonderful people. Thank you Liz.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-Warming, 31 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Black Country (Paperback)
I bought this little book after hearing Liz Berry on Radio 4, "Poetry Please". I've also watched her in one or two clips on YouTube. Her work is lovely, intelligent and heart-warming, engendering pride in the Black Country and its people (my people!).
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Black Country by Liz Berry
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