For those who love Poetry there is a simple joy, based on anticipation, in the sentence, this book contains some new poems by Liz Berry.
Casting motherhood as a new country allows the pamphlet to be presented as a simulacrum of a passport. At 26 pages (15 poems) all in, it is a slim volume but if you pay attention to notions of quality over quantity, then this is a prime cut. It has got me thinking that shorter volumes of Poetry are better, more easily digestible than great chunks of stuff with fillers-aplenty…and if properly edited they will be homogenous and appear more unitary. I have always preferred the punch of the 2 minutes 30 blast of punk to the endless, self-indulgence of the turgid wankathons inflicted on us by Led Zep and the like.
Some of these poems have been seen in public before: the title poem with its desire to speak to ‘Our Lady of the Birth Trauma, Our Lady of Psychosis’ as she prays for the ‘whole wild fucking queendom/ its sorrow, it’s unbearable skinless beauty’ or ‘The Yellow Curtains’ a companion piece to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s slim classic of confinement as ‘cure’ for a woman’s ‘temporary nervous depression’.
Others are new, to me at least. The second poem in the collection ‘Connemara’ is one of the most electric singing as it does of conception;
‘My heart was Carmine,/ radiant as a saint/ in a wayside shrine/…and the air kissed me/ with its stinging/ worshipful mouth/…
Before finishing, ‘I am ready./ inside me you pulsed,/ single celled, / extraordinary.’
The poem ‘Transition’ is a teeming, spilling surge of life force that runs beneath the surface of us all and of everything – and in case you ever get tutored into a ‘right way and a wrong way’ of doing Poetry, this one finishes with the word ‘black’ used 5 times in the last 5 lines and is stunning.
Or ‘The Visitation’ and how it moves seamlessly from lying on a hospital trolley trying to sleep before her ‘long night ahead’ to a teenage reminiscence of what sounds like first love, when she yielded, ‘like a meadow’ to a love that ‘moved through me like a May breeze’. It is hard to put into to words how perfect these images are, how they snatch your breath away, how consummate this Poetry is.
‘Sky Birth’ imagines the reverse of a sky burial, a notion that has long haunted me. In some poems Berry plays with spaces as opposed to punctuation – though not wholeheartedly it appears – but I like the way it looks on the page. ‘Placenta’ is probably more earthy than most would wish to read but in that spirit of nothing being off limits it is perfect in this collection; it has the unnerving edge of a ceremony of which we are not sure, and not clear how we are supposed to respond, as if when abroad, walking through a sunstruck village you stumble across locals at some obscure carnival. It is the essence of vitality. As well as being the essence: ‘The land moaned as I knelt.’
‘Early’, a poem celebrating the first whispered hours together of mother and child, the secrets she is already sharing, that finishes ‘and forgiving you for everything/ your sweet love would thieve me of.’
After all that, how could you not love a collection of poems in English that provides a glossary for all the Midlands dialect words that inhabit her poetry; bebowler; collied; donkey-bite; jeth; and wum.
it is a sparkling, beautiful, life-celebrating roar of a pamphlet.