Liz Berry and the Music of the Vernacular

Black-Country-Final1The Black Country by Liz Berry is a wonderful contemporary example of vernacular poetry. It goes beyond mere dialect to use the words as a way of conveying meaning and music. Elsewhere, the novels of the likes of James Kelman or Roddy Doyle use dialect to great effect in conveying working class life in Glasgow and Dublin. And Liz Berry does this in her poems about the Black Country and surrounds. To help us along, she even features translated words at the end of each poem.

Twitter: @MissLizBerry

Best of luck to Liz tonight at Forward Prize for first collection.

Here is Birmingham Roller. The video shows the dark side of the poem, in particular the musical way in which Liz Berry speaks.


Birmingham Roller 


Wench, yowm the colour of ower town:
concrete, steel, oily rainbow of the cut.
Ower streets am in yer wings,
ower factory chimdeys plumes on yer chest,
yer heart’s the china ower owd girls dust
in their tranklement cabinets.
Bred to dazzlin in backyards by men
whose onds grew soft as feathers
just to touch you, cradle you from egg
through each jeth-defying tumble.
Little acrobat of the terraces,
we’m winged when we gaze at you
jimmucking the breeze, somersaulting through
the white breathed prayer of January
and rolling back up like a babby’s yo-yo
caught by the open donny of the clouds.


wench/affectionate name for a female
yowm/you are
cut/ canal
tranklement/bits & bobs or ornaments
babby/little child



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