top of page

ISBN: 978-1-915108-06-7

Published on 21 November 2022



I’ll show you rejoice!
(But I’m a liar

I’ll show you chairs
inside a pickle jar

which have nothing to do
with rejoicing

and which will only engage
you for a second (or less)

as if they were an image
flitting by

in one of your pretty dreams
which are nothing

to do with me
but when you wake up

you’ll feel me by your side
for the briefest of moments

because I’m good at that) 




Tessa Berring’s Folded Purse is a rigorous and playful study of the known world and its ultimately unknowable things. Within its folds, poems call to, sometimes quarrel with, each other as images (a warm spell, an outdoor cow) slip from one poem to another. Some of these poems offer miraculously vivid excavations of such everyday objects as the humble scatter cushion, while others ache with the longing to touch, really touch, ‘everything everything everything.’ In a recurring dream of swimming pools, the speaker trembles underwater ‘without a doubt’, but doubt propels the questing energy that fizzes through this work like ‘an incohesion of soap bubbles/ rising through a surface.’    (Ellen Dillon)



What is inside a folded purse? Maybe a secret, a dollop of cream, or a bird. Tessa Berrings' new collection is full of objects and beings that hide and reveal their true selves depending on the intensity of a gaze, or the weather. Mutable perspectives – are we looking up at the clouds from below, or gazing into depths from the sky? Terse and sharp, a pair of tweezers picking apart the minute grains of reality, the poems also bloom into transcendence and drift away with uncanny spirituality. Desperate and funny, fierce and tender, Folded Purse is the unforgettable whispering of a poet who has her heart in one hand and spikes in the other. (Marina Dora Martino)

Folded Purse by Tessa Berring

  • Suspense

    So there was

    a table
    and at each corner of the table

    there was

    a little head
    on a tiny spike

    Below the table dangled

    a thin wire attached
    to a soft yellow sack

    which swang
    between the table legs

    as if it wanted to
    hit the wall

    on the opposite side
    of the room

    and burst!

    The little heads
    on their tiny spikes

    did not hold
    their breath




    About a Ceremony

    But I don’t
    mean candles

    I mean cotton buds
    and intimacy

    I mean silicone tipped

    (if you really need to)

    And soap
    in an apricot flannel

    They’re all
    in this folded purse

    made from buffaloes
    and antelopes

    shot dead





    I’ve forgotten the whole story

    with the hair that a man

    could not locate
    on his tongue

    How I could not bear to watch

    his parted lips
    his searching finger and thumb

    How the camera lens
    stayed glued

    around his mouth
    for more than four minutes

    and not to the figure
    of a woman on the ground

    with the dropped margarine
    in the brown-yellow light

    Nobody saw her get up
    and walk away

    Did anybody see her get up
    and walk away?

  • Folded Purse is Tessa Berring’s second collection of poems. Her first, Bitten Hair (Blue Diode Press), was published in 2019 and was highly commended in The Forward Prize. A pamphlet, Putty, was published by If A Leaf Falls Press in 2022.

bottom of page