“Poems come from your more secret mind*. A poem will want to ask deeper questions, higher questions, more puzzling questions, and often too, more satisfying questions than the everyday obvious questions.”
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About James Berry
Music is an important part of Jamaican life, and James Berry’s poems celebrate what he calls ‘everyday’ music – bird calls, tropical storms, the chatter of family and friends, and traditional songs and stories. They bring you the sounds, sights and smells of James’s Jamaican childhood.
Some of his poems are written in the Jamaican dialect, which is also known as Creole, or Patois, or Jamaican nation talk. Some of his poems use standard English. Some use both. In ‘Bye Now’ and ‘Goodbye Now’, you can hear two versions of the same poem – one in each form of language. You can also hear the tenderness of his mother’s voice. James’s readings have a wide variety of character and expression, and in ‘Trick a Duppy’ you can hear another, very different mood. Listen to the recording to find out what a duppy is – and what you can do to trick one!
James’s poems sound very musical because of their strong rhythms. Some are almost like a songs, with repetition and refrain. Here you can find free verse, couplets, proverbs, rap, conversations between two different voices and haikus.
James was born in Jamaica. He grew up in a farming family in small seaside village surrounded by fields and fruit trees. As a teenager he went to the United States to work for few years. He then moved to Britain, where he stayed for the rest of his life, mostly in London. As well as looking back to his childhood, his poetry tells of his experience as a black person in a large British city. He was one of the first black people in Britain to become famous for their writing, and later on he compiled anthologies of poetry by black writers. But he believed that that poetry could speak to any reader, whatever their skin colour.
James's recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 26 April 2004 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.
Featured in the
National Poetry Day 2019: Truth Collection
How can you know if something is true or not? To celebrate National Poetry Day's theme ...
Magical and Mystical
Magical, mystical poems, with spooky spirits, witches and wizards.
Under the Sea
A collection of poems from the deep blue.
Who am I?
A collection of poems around the themes of identity, growing up, history and remembering.
An Interview with James Berry
Distinguished poet, James Berry, often returns to his Jamaican childhood for the sound ...
Only One of Me: Selected Poems by James Berry, Macmillan, 2002
A Nest Full of Stars, Macmillan, 2004
1981 National Poetry Competition (winner)
1987 Smarties Grand Prix Award, A Thief in the Village
1989 Signal Poetry Award, When I Dance
1991 Cholmondeley Award
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