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Best Local Writer Miami 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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