Liz Berry (b. 1980, Black Country) won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in 2018 with ‘The Republic of Motherhood’, having previously won Best First Collection in 2014 for her Chatto debut Black Country. ‘Highbury Park’ describes an overgrown park in Birmingham where Berry went on long walks with her newborn son: ‘As the spring came I felt my body being brought slowly back to life by it. I thought often of Highbury’s nighttime lovers (I was the day shift) and how the pleasure of our experiences and longings might intertwine.’
Berry’s advice to poets starting out is to ‘be tough on your poems but kind to yourself… Listen to poems being spoken, let their electricity light you’. Berry’s unforgettable final image of the lover taken by the wind — ‘stripped and blown, / then jilted dazzling in the arms of the trees’ — is surely a prime example of that illuminating electricity.
Forward Prizes History: