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Eileen Berry

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I am a geographer with a first degree from London University (UCL) and doctorate from Clark University in Massachusetts. I was an assistant Professor at Clark for several years before coming to Florida. Geography and Poetry are my two major interests and I am told that a keen sense of place pervades my poems. I was born in Southport, Lancashire, England and spent much of my childhood outdoors on the sea marsh and sandy shore there. I have traveled to many parts of the world and lived for a long time in Africa-- in Algiers, Sudan,and Tanzania--which gave me opportunities to see how people lived in very different environments. I loved it all from the Mediterranean shores to the Sahara desert to the equatorial shores of the Indian Ocean. I began publishing poetry in 1992 after a time as an Associate at The Atlantic Center for the Arts. Amy Clampitt was the poet-in-residence then and we corresponded until her death in 1994. Later, I returned for a second time as an Associate when David Lehman was the poet-in-residence. These were valuable and good experiences. I have 50 or more poems published in various literary journals and in 2010 my first book was published--Bye Bye Blackbird. A second book--Magpie Mind--is currently being submitted to a number of publishers. A third book is underway. It has been said that it is difficult to get the news from poetry, but I would maintain that that is where the real news is-- of how people think about the things we are all involved in every day. When I receive a new book of poetry, I am eager to find out what the poet has to tell me.

I have been married for 47 years, happily, and have four children, numerous grandchildren and one young great-grandson.

BYE BYE BLACKBIRD Cover
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES

BYE BYE BLACKBIRD

BY Eileen Berry • POSTED ON Aug. 1, 2010

Merging geographic precision with detailed lyricism, Berry’s collection of poetry spans continents and states of the soul.

The best poetry focused on a particular locale tends to evoke sensory stimulation as much as meaning, and Berry’s collection of nearly 60 poems is no different. Born in England, the author has travelled widely throughout Africa and the United States. With a doctorate in geography, she casts a discriminating, discerning eye on the landscapes to which her travels have taken her. In unrhymed, compact poems—few more than a page in length—the poet speaks with seriousness about the relationship between the natural world and one’s inner world. In “Music of Place,” she writes: “Carried in the wind is the music of place, blown / like washing on a line, white sheets flapping, sending / large billowing folds of sound back to me,” which typifies her ability to translate a place into a finely detailed, highly specific moment in her past or present. Some poems set in North Africa elevate journallike jottings into sharply etched experiences. The dominant moods suffusing these poems are calm and meditational, perhaps reflecting the influence of poet Elizabeth Bishop, who was also attuned to inner and outer geographies. The final 20 poems shift focus from geography and place to reconciliations or frictions with family members; many relatives have passed on but are vibrantly alive in the author’s memory. These family sketches often turn on a particularly poignant phrase spoken to the author by a parent or loved one: “Windows” pivots on Berry’s father’s comment, “I could drive if I wanted to,” as the author notes that her father never owned a car. Few books of recent poetry reveal such a penetrating awareness of how the environments in which we live affect us as much as we affect them. An extraordinary, nuanced collection by a gifted poet.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1935514749

Page count: 80pp

Publisher: Plain View

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

Awards, Press & Interests

Hometown

Southport, Lancashire, England

Day job

Retired/Writer

Favorite line from a book

I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngone Hills, Karen Blixen

Favorite word

quintessential

BYE BYE BLACKBIRD: WORLDS PAST AND WORLDS AWAY: Kirkus Star