I don’t think I’ve ever read any Black Country poetry before (apart from my own, of course) and I really enjoyed this collection from Liz Berry.
It’s a tricky decision, whether to write in dialect. I’ve done it out of interest, but with Liz Berry’s work you get the sense that the language is part of her. The Black Country-isms aren’t there for novelty value – they seem natural.
I would recommend reading Black Country, but in particular, I’d recommend listening to Liz Berry read them to you in her lilting, musical voice.
My favourite was Sow. Black Country people are pig-fixated. I wrote a portrait of my own family in pork products because bacon, pigs feet, brawn, faggots, pork scratching and ‘hot pork sandwiches’ are a staple of the Dudley diet. My nan used to talk me through making brawn when I was a girl, although I had no intention of ever doing it, and told me about the ‘Pig Club’ they had in her street during the war.
I’m a Black Country person in voluntary exile and haven’t been wum (home) for nearly a decade, but Liz Berry’s poetry made me fancy a walk along the cut (canal) and half an hour in the market listening to the old men and women shouting at each other in broad dialect. (No one in the Black Country talks quietly!).