Every time I think a new thought I can smell an old one burning ? Emily Berry
About Emily Berry
Emily Berry is one of an increasingly distinct generation of poets to emerge in the UK since the early 2000’s, including Luke Kennard (whom Berry cites as an influence), Heather Phillipson, Oli Hazzard, Mark Waldron and Kate Kilalea. Her debut poetry collection, Dear Boy, published by Faber & Faber in 2013, won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and the Hawthornden Prize (a prize for imaginative literature in poetry or prose), as well as being shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. In 2008 she won an Eric Gregory Award, and published a pamphlet, Stingray Fevers, with Tall-lighthouse press. She is currently working towards a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia, and was selected as a ‘Next Generation’ poet by the Poetry Book Society in 2014. She is a contributor to The Breakfast Bible (Bloomsbury, 2013), a compendium of breakfasts.
Berry’s poetry first attracted attention in journals such as the TLS and Poetry London, and is notable for its vividness, peculiarity, and precision. Her use of dramatic speakers, frequently young women in positions of dependence to or imprisonment by older, more powerful persons, has marked her out for her imaginative and ventriloquizing gifts, as well as providing a stage for the emotional sophistication of her writing. Indeed, she shares something of the sense of theatrical production of a poem that Michael Hofmann finds in Berryman’s Dream Songs: “like watching the lights go up and down on a series of phantasmagorical sketches.”
Her speakers are often complicit in their predicaments, and throughout her first book Berry seems intent on exploring the dynamics of power relationships, whether formalised through institutional roles (‘The Incredible History of Patient M’), or in the context of romantic love – including a series of stuttering, fractured letter-poems to missing others. Her poems are by turns playful, anxious, surreal, troubling, and bereft. In these recordings Berry’s restrained, spare delivery emphasises the strange distance that language can provide, sometimes working to comic effect, but often resonant with the ways we use words to protect ourselves from events we find unsettling or unfamiliar.
This recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 14 November 2014 at Soundhouse and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.