Tag Archives: Tall Lighthouse

Liz Berry’s The Patron Saint of Schoolgirls

Liz Berry was born in Black Country and now lives in London where she works as an infant school teacher. She received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 2009. Her debut pamphlet, The Patron Saint of Schoolgirls, was published by tall-lighthouse in 2010. Her poems have appeared in most of the major UK magazines and on Radio 3’s Words and Music. She is an Emerging Poet in Residence at Kingston University and a 2011 Arvon/Jerwood mentee.

Liz Berry is an accomplished new voice. Her poetry is full of energy and surprise, with images and lines that entice the reader into a world of sensuous imagery and sultry, dark humour. This pamphlet was published as the winner of the tall-lighthouse pamphlet competition.
“This short selection of poems by Liz Berry is a completely satisfying achievement – packed with intelligence, sharp observation and a clever innocence – but also leaves us hungry for more. It marks the emergence of a compelling new voice – one that will continue to grow in range and authority.”
– Andrew Motion

My body wakes with the constellations,
star-by-star in the stifling darkness. I glide
over the dog-guarded houses, the cattle
lowing in the moonlit kraal. A parcel
of skin, teeth, bones falls from me,
a skeletal warning. I come with messages
from the darkest place. An infant coughing blood
in the village, a woman on the bed of the Ruhuhu river,
her eye-sockets hollow, a fist printing a boy’s face.
I trouble the shadows with my mourning song:
hoot-hoo-hoo-buhuhu-hoo. They shot my love
with a wooden arrow and nailed his white chest
to the doorframe to drive me away.
It drew me closer. Shape shifters conjured my body
and I welcomed their wickedness. I bore them
into the dreaming houses, the beds of lovers,
mothers cursing slumbering babies. I carried curses
between my claws, drought in my beak.
A fury, I plunged through the sultry blackness,
over children with bows, to seek y love,
his pitiful heart face, the shape of sorrow.
The Year We Married Birds
That year, with men turning thirty
still refusing to fly the nest,
we married birds instead.
Migrating snow buntings
swept into offices in the city,
took flocks of girls for Highland weddings.
Magpies smashed jewellers’ windows,
kestrels hovered above bridal shops,
a pigeon in Trafalgar Square learnt to kneel.
Sales of nesting boxes soared.
Soon cinemas were wild as woods in May
while restaurants served worms.
By June, a Russian kittiwake wed
the Minister’s daughter, gave her two
freckled eggs, a mansion on a cliff.
My own groom was a kingfisher:
enigmatic, bright. He gleamed in a metallic
turquoise suit, taught me about fishing
in the murky canal. We honeymooned
near the Wash, the saltmarshes
booming with courting bittern.
When I think of that year, I remember best
the fanning of his feathers
on my cheek, his white throat,
how every building, every street rang
with birdsong. How girls’ wedding dresses
lifted them into the trees like wings.
from The Patron Saint of Schoolgirls (tall-lighthouse, 2010).
Order The Patron Saint of Schoolgirls.

Some Favourite Poetry Collections of 2009: Part Two


Roddy Lumsden
Like This by Diana Pooley (Salt Modern Poets)
Through the Square Window by Sinead Morrissey (Carcanet Press)
Undraining Sea by Vahni Capildeo (Egg Box Publishing)
Chronic by D A Powell (Graywolf Press)
Fort Red Border by Kiki Petrosino (Sarabande Books)
Taste of Cherry by Kara Candito (University of Nebraska Press)
Jane Holland
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Suit of Lights by Damian Walford Davies (Seren Books)
A Century of Poetry Review, edited by Fiona Sampson
(Carcanet Press)
Anthony Joseph
Orphaned Latitudes by Gérard Rudolf (Red Squirrel Press)
How To Build a City by Tom Chivers (Salt Modern Poets)
Undraining Sea by Vahni Capildeo (Egg Box Publishing)
Katy Evans-Bush
Caligula on Ice and Other Poems by Tim Turnbull (Donut Press)
The Song of Lunch by Christopher Reid (CB Editions)
How To Build a City by Tom Chivers (Salt Modern Poets)
David Caddy
Music’s Duel: New and Selected Poems by Gavin Selerie
(Shearsman Books)
Conversation with Murasaki by Tom Lowenstein (Shearsman Books)
Practical Water by Brenda Hillman (Wesleyan Press)
Anne Berkeley
The Clockwork Gift by Claire Crowther (Shearsman Books)
The Ambulance Box by Andrew Philip (Salt Modern Poets)
A Scattering by Christopher Reid (Areté Books)
Simon Barraclough
instead of stars by Amy Key (tall-lighthouse)
The Borrowed Notebook by Chris McCabe (Landfill Press)
Frankie, Alfredo, by Liane Strauss (Donut Press)
Shaindel Beers
Cradle Song by Stacey Lynn Brown (C&R Press)
Packing Light: New & Selected Poems by Marilyn Kallet
(Black Widow Press)
War Dances by Sherman Alexie (Grove Press)
Petals of Zero Petals of One by Adam Zawacki (Talisman House)
Rob A. Mackenzie
Third Wish Wasted by Roddy Lumsden (Bloodaxe Books)
The Ambulance Box by Andrew Philip (Salt Modern Poets)
Rays by Richard Price (Carcanet Press)
Valeria Melchioretto
Bird Head Son by Anthony Joseph (Salt Modern Poets)
The Tethers by Carrie Etter (Seren Books)
Blood/Sugar by James Byrne (Arc Publications)
Gaia Holmes
The Hunt in the Forest by John Burnside (Jonathan Cape)
Fruitcake by Selima Hill (Bloodaxe Books)
Hammers and Hearts of the Gods by Fred Voss (Bloodaxe Books)

Jocelyn Page’s ‘Pufferfish’

Jocelyn Page is a poet from Connecticut, USA, who currently lives in South East London. Her work has appeared in Smiths Knoll, The Interpreter’s House, City Lighthouse anthology (Tall Lighthouse, 2009), and on various music websites including the Royal Philharmonic Hear Here project. In 2008 her work was Highly Commended by The New Writer Prose & Poetry Magazine. Her debut pamphlet will be published in 2010 by Tall Lighthouse.
Jocelyn Page

You’re on your way to the mall
to an air-conditioned day
where customers will be right
& you’ll need to ask a manager
to authorize any refund, when driving
through that octopus of an intersection
where you’re always surprised your light’s green
you’ll see his car & your bowels’ll prickle
then swell like a pastry bag prepped to pipe
you’ll see someone else where you used to be
that spot in the car that was yours
like the chair at the dining room table
where Dad always sits & nobody else
would even think of sitting there.
& she’ll be in the middle of that bench seat
next to him, the stick shift denting her thighs
& you’ll drive by, changed.
It’ll be with you then, you’ll carry it
like a terminal diagnosis
all nine hours of your shift
& between sales it’ll dwarf you
at the cash register it’ll hide
& in the stock room you’ll feel faint
all day long it’ll loiter
like a pufferfish, ready to flood itself
big onto the scene or rest alert
behind the treasure chest
small, ready & all about the poison.
Read more of Jocelyn’s poetry here and here.