On Wednesday December 6th, Liz Berry with fellow local superstar poets Nafeesa Hamid and Hannah Swingler will be at the Bear Bookshop in Bearwood for an evening of poetry to benefit Black Country Women's Aid. This is perhaps the most exciting event this magazine has been involved with this year. There's something about this night that just feels great. Maybe because we love putting on events with the Bear Bookshop. There might be some space available still... check with Jenny at the bookstore.
Liz's latest book, The Home Child, is a novel in Verse, published earlier this year to much acclaim by Chatto & Windus. Nafeesa Hamid and Hannah Swingler both have collections published by Birmingham's truly fab Verve poetry folks.
Liz Berry might be the hardest working poet in the poet business, but still found time to be the first answerer of our new, even less taxing series of minor celeb interviews, Three Big Questions For... Over to Liz...
ONE: I am sure you’re in demand for readings and so on and so I am so grateful that you are coming to Bearwood, so that I don’t have to go far to see/hear you. The plan is to raise money for Black Country Women’s Aid. Is it possible for you to ask why this specific group is so important to you. How would we reach them if we needed to?
Liz Berry: I’m proud to be from the Black Country and so much of my work has been about telling the stories and histories of Black Country women and trying to catch their beautiful voices. Every day Black Country Women’s Aid works to look after those women and keep them safe, so it’s a charity very close to my heart. BCWA support anyone affected by abuse or exploitation and can reached through their website https://blackcountrywomensaid.co.uk/ where you’ll find the number for their 24-hour helpline. There is always someone there to listen. I was also so pleased to be asked to read at The Bear Bookshop, as I’m eternally appreciative of Brum’s indie bookshops; they champion readers and writers and are such a force for joy and good in our city.
TWO. Can you explain the intricacies of a Poetic Novel, a Novel in Verse, and how you came to presenting The Home Child in this way, how would one begin… - we are excited to know…
Liz Berry: The Home Child is a ‘novel in verse’ which is just a lovely way of saying ‘a story told through poems’. I wanted The Home Child to bring Eliza vividly to life and for readers to feel they could lose themselves in her story the way we lose ourselves in novels, absorbed from beginning to end. I also very much wanted it to reach readers who might not normally choose poetry (this is almost always something I think of when I’m making a book). By calling The Home Child a novel in verse, I hope we foreground its storytelling and make it feel approachable for readers. Using poems to tell the story allowed me to use a range of voices and styles (there’s letters, songs, lyric poems, official documents, narratives) and to make the book feel polyphonic; for even though The Home Child is Eliza Showell’s story, it’s also the story of the hundred thousand British children who were migrated to Canada. But all this makes it sound as if I began with a very distinct plan, when actually the opposite is true: in the beginning I worked poem to poem, knowing only that I was haunted by the story and wanted to share it.
THREE: Brutalist Birmingham or svelte sky-scraping futurist Brum? Which is for you?
Liz Berry: Dreamy old Victorian Birmingham with its red brick and terracotta. Although I do love the way
Birmingham is continually trying to build ‘the future’ and then changing its mind! That speaks to me of a
restless dreaming which I like. Forward!
Liz Berry, Hannah Swingler & Nafeesa Hamid
Bear Bookshop (in aid of Black Country Women's Aid - bring actual cash if you can-seriously)
Wednesday December 6th, 7pm