Dominic Berry will be performing as part of Queer’Say, on at RichMix on the 12th September. Queer’Say is a showcase of queer spoken word to be recorded for Resonance FM’s LGBT magazine show Out In South London presented in partnership with Apples and Snakes. Hear three poets perform before being interviewed about their life, work and inspirations by presenter and host, the award-winning comedian and Radio 4 regular Rosie Wilby. This week I interviewed Dominic about his work.
1. When and how did you first come to write poetry?
I think its really lame when poets get asked what got them into poetry and they say song lyrics. I got into poetry through song lyrics. I think it’d be loads better if I said Byron or Plath or Benjamin Zephaniah, but no, it was 90s Brit Pop! Actually, alongside the likes of Jarvis Cocker and PJ Harvey I was (and still am) hugely inspired by Leonard Cohen. I first heard his song Suzanne on Radio 1, of all places.
Poetry was taught super well at our school. I hated school in general, every day was a living hell of being bullied, running, hiding and crying, but English Lit lessons were awesome. Our teacher, Mr Buckley, was a legend. He was so encouraging of my enthusiasm for wordplay and poetics that when I left school, when I had no one forcing me to write rhymes, still wanted to do so. I sought out nights in Manchester where I could recite. I discovered Rosie Garland, Lemn Sissay, James Quinn and Gerry Potter AKA Chloe Poems. Wow. They were and are amazing. I had no idea being a poet could be a job! I saw them and wanted that for myself more than anything.
It was a long journey of entering slams, applying for residencies and constantly seeking ways to sharpen my craft before I did go freelance. Now, it is the thing in my life which brings me the greatest happiness.
2. What inspires you to write and (if different) what ideas / themes have inspired your poetry?
Other poets. It is so important for a poet to immerse themselves in the poetry scene. There are so many stunning artists to provoke debate and discussion and spark ideas. My most recent work has been about video gaming, but really that’s just a vehicle for exploring who I am as an effeminate, gay man. It’s all about where I feel I do or do not fit in when it comes to other gay men, other men, other people and the wider world in which we live. Hopefully compassionately.
3. Whose work has inspired you in the past?
The first poetry night I attended was a slam (performance poetry competition). I got second place. First place was Martin Stannage. Martin and I became great friends. He has worked with me most recently creating the music for my video game show. Poets are never really in competition against other poets. We are competing together as a team to show the power of poetry to those who would doubt it, how it can improve mental health, self confidence, give humour, insight, magic and wonder – but we’re not ever really against each other. Martin’s work continues to inspire me greatly. Jackie Hagan, Zach Roddis, Keisha Thompson and all of Manchester’s ‘Young Identity’ group are miraculously marvelous artists too.
4. What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing your work?
I hope they laugh at my jokes. I hope they get something out of the deep bits. I hope they are engaged. That’s it really, isn’t it, just create interesting stuff that engages people, engages them with you the artist, with ideas, energy – how we communicate with each other. I want us to communicate in loving and kind ways. Yes, I am a huge lefty, hippy. Unapologetic! Love is the answer. Always.
5. What’s been your favourite gig yet to date?
Styal women’s prison. New York’s Nuyorican Poetry Cafe. Performing at Stonewall on the day gay marriage became legal in New York. Busboys and Poets in DC. Bang Said The Gun. Edinburgh Fringe. All my work with Manchester’s Contact and Z Arts. All my rural touring. All of them!
6. Where and when can we next see you perform?
Following the run of my video game show ‘Up Your Game, The Downfall of a Noob’ through August in Cabaret Voltaire as part of PBH’s Edinburgh Free Fringe, I am organising a little tour of that show up and down the country and showcasing excerpts in my guest sets wherever I perform. I’m really proud of the silliness and sincerity of this new show. That’s what I want, to be as sincerely silly as can be.
7. Where can we follow you on social media?
www.dominicberry.net, @thepoetdominic on twitter and Dominic Berry’s Poetry Stuff on Facebook
You can book tickets for Queer’Say here: http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/queersay/