Jay Bernard (writer)

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Bernard in 2019

Jay Bernard (born 1988), FRSL, is a British writer, artist, film programmer, and activist from London, UK. Bernard has been a programmer at BFI Flare since 2014,[1] co-editor of Oxford Poetry,[2] and their fiction, non-fiction, and art has been published in many national and international magazines and newspapers. Bernard's work engages with LGBT identities and dialogues. Bernard believes that celebrations such as LGBT History Month are positive and beneficial, but there needs to be vigilance against those that use it for their own agendas.[3]


Bernard in 2019

Bernard was named a Foyle Young Poet of the year in 2005.[4]

Bernard's pamphlet The Red and Yellow Nothing was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in 2016. The collection tells of the story of Sir Morien, a black knight at Camelot.[5] The reviewer for The London Magazine wrote: "Jay Bernard has created a rare and beautiful thing. Part contemporary verse drama, part mythic retelling....Employing metrical ballads and concrete poems with equal vigour, Bernard takes us on a visual and allusive journey to test the imagination, thus putting the poet’s resources of sight and sound to full use. ...reading The Red and Yellow Nothing brings continuous surprise."[6]

Bernard won the 2017 Ted Hughes Award for new poetry for their multimedia performance work Surge: Side A,[7] that includes the film Something Said, inspired by the 1981 New Cross house fire[8][9][10] and archives held at the George Padmore Institute, where they were the first poet-in-residence.[11] The 2014 novel A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, and Twilight City, a film produced by Reece Auguiste for the Black Audio Film Collective in 1989, also provided inspiration for the work.[12]

Bernard was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2018.[13][14]

Bernard's poetry collection, Surge, published by Chatto & Windus, was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot prize in 2019,[15] for the 2019 Costa Poetry Award,[16] for the 2020 Dylan Thomas Prize,[17] and the 2020 RSL Ondaatje Prize.[18] It has won the 2020 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award.[19]


Pamphlets and single-author collections[edit]

  • Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl (Tall Lighthouse, 2008, ISBN 978-1904551416)
  • English Breakfast (Math Paper Press, 2013)[20]
  • The Red and Yellow Nothing (Ink, Sweat and Tears Press, 2016, ISBN 978-0992725310), pamphlet, shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in 2016.[21]
  • Other Ubiquities (2017)[22]
  • Surge (Chatto, 2019, ISBN 978-1784742614).


Surge: Side A (2017), a multimedia performance piece that won the Ted Hughes Award for new poetry. The work was performed at the Roundhouse, London, during The Last Word Festival 2017, and was produced by Speaking Volumes.[7]


Inclusion in anthologies and collections[edit]

Graphic art and poetry by Bernard appears in the following collections:

  • City State (2009)
  • "Black Britain: Beyond Definition", Wasafiri, Issue 64, Winter 2010.[24]
  • The Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt 2011)
  • Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe 2014)


Personal life[edit]

Bernard was born and grew up in Croydon, London,[12] and read English at Oxford University.[28] Bernard uses the pronouns "they/ them".[12] Their Jamaican-born grandmother, Gee Bernard (1934–2016), was the first black councillor in Croydon and the first black member of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA).[29][30][31][32]


  1. ^ "Meet out new BFI Flare programmer". BFI. 17 December 2014.
  2. ^ "New Editor". Oxford Poetry.
  3. ^ ""Whatever I say I'm not, I find myself becoming": In conversation with Jay Bernard – Young Poets Network". February 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  4. ^ "Profile: Jay Bernard". The Poetry Society.
  5. ^ Moore, Fiona (19 September 2016). "Review: The Red and Yellow Nothing by Jay Bernard". Sabotage Reviews.
  6. ^ Kwek, Theophilus (1 September 2016), "The Red and Yellow Nothing by Jay Bernard" (review), The London Magazine.
  7. ^ a b "Jay Bernard wins the Ted Hughes Award for new work in poetry". The Poetry Society. 28 March 2018.
  8. ^ Lea, Richard (28 March 2018). "Jay Bernard wins Ted Hughes Award". The Guardian.
  9. ^ "Jay Bernard wins Ted Hughes new poetry award". BBC News. 28 March 2018.
  10. ^ Onwuemezi, Natasha (29 March 2018), "Jay Bernard wins Ted Hughes Award", The Bookseller.
  11. ^ "GPI's First Poet-in-Residence Jay Bernard Live at the Roundhouse", George Padmore Institute, 28 June 2017.
  12. ^ a b c Armitstead, Claire (5 April 2018). "Interview: Speaking out: Ted Hughes winner Jay Bernard on exploring the New Cross fire in a one-off performance". The Guardian.
  13. ^ "Fellow: Jay Bernard". The Royal Society of Literature.
  14. ^ Flood, Alison (28 June 2018), "Royal Society of Literature admits 40 new fellows to address historical biases", The Guardian.
  15. ^ Flood, Alison (17 October 2019). "TS Eliot prize unveils shortlist of 'fearless poets'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  16. ^ "Past shortlisted entries", Costa Book Awards.
  17. ^ "Dylan Thomas Prize 2020 shortlist announced". Books+Publishing. 8 April 2020. Retrieved 8 April 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "Royal Society of Literature » RSL Ondaatje Prize". rsliterature.org. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  19. ^ Jay Bernard wins £5,000 Young Writer of the Year Award for Surge. irishtimes.com. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  20. ^ English Breakfast at Books Actually.
  21. ^ Bernard, Jay (2017). "How I Did It". Poetry School.
  22. ^ Other Ubiquities, Jay Bernard website.
  23. ^ "About Something Said". Something Said Film.
  24. ^ "Wasafiri Issue 64". Wasafiri.
  25. ^ "Previous Artists in Residence". StAnza International Poetry Festival.
  26. ^ a b "Jay Bernard". Art on the Underground.
  27. ^ "Art on the Underground Project: 100". Art on the Underground.
  28. ^ Lau, Carolyn (December 2014), "Songs of Experience: Jay Bernard's English Breakfast and Ami's The Desire to Sing After Sunset" (reviews), Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (Issue 26).
  29. ^ "Gee Bernard Wiki", Jay Bernard website.
  30. ^ "Hon Alderwoman Gee Bernard", Your Croydon, 9 December 2016.
  31. ^ "Croydon pioneer Gee Bernard will be sorely missed", Inside Croydon, 10 December 2016.
  32. ^ Sinclair, Leah (14 December 2016), "Croydon's First Black Councillor Passes Away", The Voice.

External links[edit]