'Englan’ Voice', a recording of James Berry performing at the British Library

Description

English

‘Englan’ Voice’ was published in James Berry’s poetry collection Windrush Songs (2007). This reading was recorded at an event celebrating the British Library’s acquisition of Berry’s archive in 2016.

Windrush Songs recalls Berry’s own experiences of migration alongside the voices of other characters. Like other poems in the collection, ‘Englan’ Voice’ demonstrates Berry’s ability to write ‘in voice’ using Jamaican dialect. Focussed on language, the poem negotiates the boundaries between the English spoken in the Caribbean as a result of slavery and colonialism, and the English which the character aspires to adopt on his arrival in Britain.

Transcript

Transcript

[James Berry speaking]

I prepare – an prepare well – fe Englan.
Me decide, and done leave behine
all the voice of ol slave-estate bushman.

None of that distric bad-talk in Englan,
that bush talk of ol slave-estate man.

Hear me speak in Englan, an see
you dohn think I a Englan native.

Me nah go say ‘Bwoy, how you du?'
me a-go say 'How are you old man?'

Me nah go say
'Wha yu nyam las night?'
me a-go say “What did you have for supper?'

Patois talk is bushman talk –
people who talk patois them dam lazy.

Because mi bush voice so settle in me
an might let me down in-a Englan
me a-practise.

Me a-practise talk like teacher
till mi Englan voice come out-a me
like water from hillside rock.

Even if you fellows here
dohn hear mi Englan voice
I have it - an hear it in mi head!

[laughter]

Title:
'Englan’ Voice', a recording of James Berry performing at the British Library
Date:
2016
Duration:
1:30
Format:
Sound recording
Creator:
James Berry
Copyright:
© British Library, James Berry: © By permission of the estate of James Berry © British Library
Usage terms

You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
C927/1543 C1

Related articles

An introduction to James Berry's Windrush Songs

Article by:
Hannah Lowe
Theme:
Exploring identity

Windrush Songs was published in 2007, by which time James Berry had been living in England for close to 60 years. Hannah Lowe explores how Berry’s collection negotiates the symbol of the Empire Windrush and positions post-war migration within the legacies of slavery and colonialism.

An introduction to James Berry's Windrush Songs

Article by:
Hannah Lowe
Themes:
Authors, artists and activists, The arrivants

Windrush Songs was published in 2007, by which time James Berry had been living in England for close to 60 years. Hannah Lowe explores how Berry’s collection negotiates the symbol of the Empire Windrush and positions post-war migration within the legacies of slavery and colonialism.

Related collection items