James Berry came to Britain in 1948, in the first post-war wave of Jamaican emigration, later becoming one of the first black writers in Britain to achieve wider recognition. His experiences gave him a strong and particularly Caribbean awareness of language, one which has nourished his poetry over many years. He himself observed that West Indian poetry “has something to say and there is a compulsive beauty about the way it is being said”. It is this compulsive beauty that Berry’s poetry communicates so strongly.
James Berry was born and brought up in a tiny seaside village in Jamaica. He first rose to prominence in the UK in 1981 when he won the National Poetry Competition. His many books include two seminal anthologies of Caribbean poetry, Bluefoot Traveller (1976) and News for Babylon (1984), six collections of poetry – most recently Hot Earth Cold Earth (1995) and Windrush Songs (2007) from Bloodaxe. He has won many literary prizes, including the Signal Poetry Award (1989) and a Cholmondeley Award (1991). He was awarded the OBE in 1990. He lives in London.