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James Berry

James Berry was born in Jamaica in 1924. He grew up in Jamaica and at the age of seventeen went to work in America and eventually settled in England, where he would spend the rest of his life.

Berry published his first book, Fractured Circles (Beacon Press), in 1979, and rose to prominence two years later when he won the National Poetry Competition. He was the first West Indian poet to win the prestigious prize.

Berry is the author of several books of poetry and children’s literature, including A Story I Am In: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2011), Windrush Songs (Bloodaxe Books, 2007), and Only One of Me: Selected Poems (Macmillan, 2004). His honors included the Smarties Prize, the Signal Poetry Award, and the Cholmondeley Award. In 1990 he was awarded an OBE for his services to poetry. He died on June 20, 2017.

Selected Bibliography


A Story I Am In: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2011)
Windrush Songs (Bloodaxe Books, 2007)
Only One of Me: Selected Poems (Macmillan, 2004)
Hot Earth Cold Earth (Bloodaxe Books, 1995)
Chain of Days (Oxford University Press, 1985)
Lucy's Letters and Loving (New Beacon Press, 1982)
Fractured Circles (New Beacon Press, 1979)

By This Poet


A Nest Full of Stars

Only chance made me come and find
my hen, stepping from her hidden
nest, in our kitchen garden.

In her clever secret place, her tenth
egg, still warm, had just been dropped.

Not sure of what to do, I picked up
every egg, counting them, then put them
down again. All were mine.

All swept me away and back.
I blinked, I saw: a whole hand
of ripe bananas, nesting.

I blinked, I saw: a basketful
of ripe oranges, nesting.

I blinked, I saw: a trayful
of ripe naseberries, nesting.

I blinked, I saw: an open bagful
of ripe mangoes, nesting.

I blinked, I saw:
a mighty nest full of stars.

naseberry: sapodilla plum with sweet brown flesh