James Berry was born in 1924 in Jamaica and after working in the US for a time, settled in Britain in 1948.
His adult poetry collections are: Fractured Circles (1979); Lucy's Letters and Loving (1982); Chain of Days (1985); Hot Earth Cold Earth (1995); and Windrush Songs (2007). A Story I Am In: Selected Poems was published in 2011.
He also wrote collections for children, including When I Dance (1988), winner of the 1989 Signal Poetry Award; Playing a Dazzler (1996); Everywhere Faces Everywhere (1997); A Nest Full of Stars (2002) and Only One of Me: Selected Poems (2004). His collections of short stories include A Thief in the Village and other stories (1987), winner of the 1987 Smarties Grand Prix Award and a Coretta Scott King Book Award (US); and The Future-Telling Lady and other stories (1991). He also wrote about Anancy Spiderman (1988), the popular figure from West African folklore, and created two new tales about him - Don't Leave an Elephant to Go and Chase a Bird (1996) and First Palm Trees (1997).
He also edited four poetry anthologies: Bluefoot Traveller: Poetry by Westindians in Britain (1976) and News for Babylon: The Chatto Book of Westindian British Poetry (1984); and for children, Classic Poems to Read Aloud (1995) and Around the World in Eighty Poems (2001).
A champion of West Indian British writing, Berry often used a mixture of West Indian dialect and standard English in his own work. In 1981 he won the National Poetry Competition with his poem 'Fantasy of an African Boy'. In 1990, he was awarded an OBE and in 1991, received a Cholmondeley Award. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate by the Open University and is an Honorary Fellow at Birkbeck College.
James Berry died in June 2017.