James Berry Poetry Prize

 Full details 

The prize: Three equal winners each to receive £1000 prize, expert mentoring and debut collection published with Bloodaxe Books.

Closing date: 31 July 2024

Entry fee: No entry fee

Image of James Berry plus 2024 competition judges and mentors.

The Prize

The James Berry Poetry Prize will assist young and/or emerging writers of colour with mentoring to help them develop their work, followed by publication of their debut book-length collection with Bloodaxe Books. Devised by Bernardine Evaristo, OBE, and Nathalie Teitler, the prize is modelled on The Complete Works mentoring programme previously supported by Arts Council England.

The prize is free to enter. It is open to poets of colour who have not yet published a book-length collection, with special consideration given to LGBTQ+/disabled poets and poets from underrepresented backgrounds. It is the first national poetry prize to include both mentoring and book publication.

A panel of judges will choose three equal winning poets. Each year the winning poets will be invited to take part in an annual James Berry Poetry Prize reading as part of the Newcastle Centre for Literary Arts events series. 

The prize is generously funded this year by Bloodaxe Books covered by uplift in NPO grants specifically for inclusivity projects and run in partnership with Newcastle University.

James Berry (1927-2017)

The prize is named in honour of James Berry, OBE 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 seminal anthologies of Caribbean-British poetry, Bluefoot Traveller (1976) and News for Babylon (Chatto & Windus, 1981), and A Story I Am In: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2011), drawing on five earlier collections including Windrush Songs (2007), published to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.


This prize is open to writers of colour over the age of 18 who have not yet published a book-length manuscript. Applicants must be resident in the UK in order to be eligible for the prize.

Applicants can have had poems published in magazines or online or in a pamphlet but they must not previously have published a full-length book collection of their own work, and must not have a publishing contract for a full-length collection with a publisher or literary agent. Applicants must not also have received extensive support from similar mentoring schemes in order to submit. Further notes regarding eligibility, judging process and the prize can be found in the Terms & Conditions section.

How to enter

The closing date of the prize is 31 July 2024 at midnight. Applicants can only enter once. Entries submitted on behalf of another person will not be eligible.

Applicants must submit a portfolio of 10 to 12 pages of poems, a Personal Statement and CV and an Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form.

The Personal Statement must include your name, address, phone number and email, plus please include answers to all three questions below:

How would winning the James Berry Poetry Prize benefit you?

What qualities are you looking for in a mentorship and how will it help you?

How did you discover poetry in your life and what does it mean to you?

The CV should be two A4 pages maximum and include publications, readings, performances, CW degrees, teaching, editing, reviews and any relevant professional work.

The portfolio of 10 to 12 pages of poetry must be the applicant’s original work and may have been published previously in a pamphlet, journal, anthology, online, YouTube, etc, as long as acknowledgement is made.

Please submit your entry in TWO separate documents: -


CV and personal statement (in one document)

Plus fill out the Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form

All files must be either a .doc, .docx or .pdf.  Entries must be written in English, can be on any subject and written in any style or form.

Please email all queries and Portfolios, CVs & Personal Statements to Theresa Muñoz at Theresa.Munoz@ncl.ac.uk.

Deadline for applications is 31 July 2024. All entrants, shortlisted poets and winners will be notified by the end of September 2024.


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