In each issue we ask a contemporary poet for a poem which draws inspiration from another poet’s work. Liz Berry responds to Kim Addonizio’s poem Good Girl. Here is an extract, but read the full article in Magma 77  to find out what Liz did next and to read her magnificent poem, The Magpie.

I fell in love with Kim Addonizio’s poems when I bought her book Tell Me from a second hand bookshop last year. I loved the cover – a photo of the poet looking brilliant and jaded in a bar – and the frank, sexy, tender, bold poems of love and mortality inside. I wanted to ring everyone I knew and tell them about these poems – thinking she was a great discovery – only to find that many were already devotees.

There’s a poem from Tell Me that I love, it’s called Good Girl and I’ve thought of it pretty much every day since I discovered it last year. In the poem the speaker, through her direct address of “you”, seems to be addressing both herself and the reader, inciting both to stop being such a “good girl” and instead to roll around in the dirt of pleasure while there is still time. I love this line

Forty, forty-one. At the end of all this
there’s one lousy biscuit, and it tastes like dirt.
So get going…

Perfect! I couldn’t get those lines out of my head, their thrilling urgency and sharp talking. I’m turning forty this year and the poem reaches right into me and gives me a good shake. Get on with it and enjoy your life as that biscuit (death) isn’t the reward you wanted or the treat you’d expected for being so “good”.

I think about “goodness” and the way it informs women’s lives a lot, the way it informs my life as a mother and as a woman and even as a poet, the way it’s used to narrow women’s behaviours and expectations of their lives, their potential and their emotions. Be good, be likeable, be sweet and placid and you’ll be rewarded with – what? Love? Approval?

I wanted to write a poem that conjured up some of the fury, pleasure and defiance of Kim Addonizio’s poem; a poem which subverts expectations of how a “good”, well behaved mother should live her life. I don’t want to run around boozing and sleeping with strangers but I do have a lot of fury and wild energy these days and often feel hard pushed as to know where to channel it.

Then the skies gave me the perfect gift.

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