Best Local Writer (2000)

Judith Berke

Shy and retiring, poet Judith Berke doesn't always come to mind in this era of feted writers receiving gargantuan prizes. Yet her work epitomizes our region, not as a visitor or as a tourist, but as a long-time resident. In "Vizcaya," from her book White Morning, Berke brings us wisdom from another time that is no less valid today: "Under here/are the runaway slaves, and the Indians./On their sides, listening./White now. Almost completely white."

Or in "The Shell": "We hadn't seen a shell on this beach for years./If an Indian had come by/it would have been no less strange -- /and we would give him the shell/and he would give us the beach/and we would think/for a while we owned it."

Even when Berke is not speaking directly about Florida, she evokes it when penning lines like this: "How lovely, to lie under the/rushing out of the leaves/of the mangos, to nibble the grass/even if it's bitter, and look up at the stars/even if there are none...." Berke's Miami is the true, original homestead, just as she is a poet who remains true to herself and the art of poetry.

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