The book celebrates the divided world of a lifelong outsider, a poet of two tongues, 'Hot Earth' Creole and 'Cold Earth' English. Growing up in Jamaica, Berry felt as much disturbed by attitudes of his African background as by the European slave-trade and its aftermaths in his childhood. Root-agonies compel him to approach Africa as a thoughtless and neglectful mother.
Life in Britain holds him concerned with a worrying past, present and future. Yet Hot Earth Cold Earth grapples with a destructiveness in basic instincts. And, in spite of what Berry calls "the vices and howlings of a cultural-crossing", a defiant spirit of celebration has clearly been "neither wiped away nor drowned", for these vividly imaginative poems show him - now 70 - writing at the height of his powers.
As a bonus, Hot Earth Cold Earth also includes the best work from his last collection, Chain of Days, which has been unavailable for many years.
"When I think of James Berry's poetry I think of celebration... celebration with an echo of despair, but his urge to find worth and joy in both the remembered life of his rural Jamaican childhood and in his sojourn as a 'bluefoot traveller' in Britain through the last forty years, is the real motive force of his work... Berry has been at the forefront of the struggle to validate and honour the language people of West Indian origin in Britain actually speak."
"Berry has a real talent for rendering the tone as well as the cadence of West Indian speech... His other great gift is for celebration."
"His use of roots language is a long-overdue innovation in British literature."
"Berry can turn his hand stylishly in Creole... and achieve vividly rhetorical effects in 'standard' English."