Skip to main content

James Berry Poetry Prize

The James Berry Poetry Prize will assist poets of colour with talent ready to take their work to the next level via mentoring and publication.

The James Berry Poetry Prize is the UK’s first poetry prize offering both expert mentoring and book publication for young or emerging poets of colour. Organised by NCLA with Bloodaxe Books, and supported by special funding from Arts Council England, the prize was launched in April 2021.  Marjorie Lotfi and Kaycee Hill were announced as joint winners of the inaugural prize in October 2021, along with Yvette Siegert, whose debut will be published by Bloodaxe Books in 2025.

Details about the next James Berry Poetry Prize are coming soon. 

About James Berry

The prize is in honour of James Berry, OBE (1927-2017), one of the first black writers in Britain to receive wider recognition. He emigrated from Jamaica in 1948, and took a job with British Telecom, where he spent much of his working life until he was able to support himself from his writing. He rose to prominence in 1981 when he won the National Poetry Competition.

His numerous books included two influential anthologies of Caribbean and Black British poetry, Bluefoot Traveller (1976) and News for Babylon (1984). His Bloodaxe retrospective A Story I Am In: Selected Poems (2011) draws on five previous collections published by New Beacon Books, Oxford University Press and Bloodaxe Books. His collection Windrush Songs (2007) was published to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. He also published several books of poetry and stories for children, and was made an OBE in 1990 for services to poetry. He was especially generous in supporting new and emerging poets of colour in Britain.

James also inspired and helped younger poets who came after him, most notably Raymond Antrobus and Hannah Lowe, who returned the favour by giving him their personal support in his later years.

Black and white image if James Berry smiling to the side at the camera.