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  • Sal Idriss

Biography

James Berry was born in 1924 in Jamaica and after working in the US for a time, settled in Britain in 1948.

He is a poet and author of several books for adults and for children.

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 has also written 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). 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 has written 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 is also the editor of 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).

James Berry is a champion of Westindian British writing and and uses a mixture of Westindian dialect and standard English in his own work. He has given many performances and workshops and lives in London. 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.  

Bibliography

A Story I Am In: Selected Poems
Windrush Songs
Only One of Me: Selected Poems
A Nest Full of Stars
Around the World in Eighty Poems
Everywhere Faces Everywhere
First Palm Trees
Don't Leave an Elephant to Go and Chase a Bird
Rough Sketch Beginning
Playing a Dazzler
Classic Poems to Read Aloud
Hot Earth, Cold Earth
Celebration Song
Ajeemah and his Son
Isn't My Name Magical?
The Future-Telling Lady and other stories
Anancy Spiderman
When I Dance
The Girls and Yanga Marshall
A Thief in the Village and other stories
Chain of Days
News for Babylon: The Chatto Book of Westindian British Poetry
Lucy's Letters and Loving
Fractured Circles
Bluefoot Traveller: Poetry by Westindians in Britain

Awards

1993
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (US)
1991
Cholmondeley Award
1990
OBE
1989
Coretta Scott King Book Award (US)
1989
Signal Poetry Award
1987
Smarties Grand Prix Award
1981
National Poetry Competition