Category Archives: College of Charleston

Being a Writer Is Easy! (If You Have Nothing Else to Do)

In the past week, I have written 12,000 words. 1,000 of those words have been fiction, 0 words poetry, and the rest devoted to various academic projects. With the publication of my first novel fast approaching, I must consider myself more and more a writer, and yet such a title demands attention and effort. A writer, after all, must write. Not just blog posts like this one. Or Tweets, a form of which I am particularly fond. But rather, stories. Novels. Poems. Essays for lofty literary journals. And in the past few months, I have done little of this. Moored to the workload of senior year, I have neglected my holy and dreadful duties as a writer.

So what to do? What is a writer who does not write? Recently, my laptop crashed—kaput! The latest draft of my second novel, on which I’ve been working since my Freshman year at College of Charleston, was lost within a fried hard drive. The loss eliminated any motivation to continue working on the novel, and for the past four months, the story has languished in the purgatory of forgotten manuscripts. Where novels-in-progress go to die. Of course I still have the second draft for reference, and I can jump right back in with a new draft.

After all, my inspiration in writing has been replenished. This year I am taking my first ever fiction-writing course with Professor Brett Lott at the College of Charleston. What I expected to be a course crammed with trite advice and undergraduate pandering has actually been quite helpful. Several of the most basic lessons of fiction have eluded me until now, and I must return with a critical eye to my new material. Like all young writers, I am already terrified of my first novel (I wrote the novel when I was seventeen and eighteen), and yet I still have such pride in it. It is, after all, a fine work, especially for someone as young as I. But nevertheless, I intend to do even better next time, applying the lessons I have learned in the course.

But what of time? How does one grapple with the lack of time one receives in university? Some college students participate in Nanowrimo, and I long for the days I could spend hours in a coffee shop furiously typing. But no, that won’t do. It’s not that I don’t have the energy to write nor the ideas, but rather that other obligations have wrestled me away from the stories. Too often I wish to scribble ideas into a notebook and abandon whatever essay, presentation, or op-ed I am working on. Too often I find myself at the end of the day exhausted by the sheer effort of living, of academic rigor, of the expectations of professors and parents, of the black hole of social media that promises either publication success or ruin. Too often I find myself discussing writing with friends rather than writing. But I am finding my groove. I am writing on the toilet, on planes, in cars, in class, between classes, and in the library while I am supposed to be working on the two essays, three group projects, and poster presentation due in two days (as I am doing now).

So I must work without ceasing. I must work even when not writing. Always, a tiny elf sits in my head, scribbling down experiences, filing away gestures and odd phrases, and composing grand scenes. When I am in class, I am working: who needs to listen to a lecture on Benedictine monks when one has read Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose? When I am exercising (which means here riding my bike aimlessly through the decrepit and ruinous parts of my city), I am working. During sex, I am working. While eating lunch, I am working. While taking a shower, I am working. When I am out drinking with my friends, dancing a wild gig of youthful merriment, I am working. I am cataloging my life for the sake of my art. My mind is alive with stories.

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Me, Working

I have taken a semester to step away from my second novel, hoping to return with renewed vigor during winter break. For now, I am perfecting my storytelling. I have written six short stories so far since August and I intend to write another two before winter crashes into South Carolina and forces me inside. And when it does, I will pour a hot coffee and keep writing.

On the Origins of Party “Rage”: A Non-Academic Argument for Why One Day Partying Will Replace Warfare

As university classes start up again, college students begrudgingly march to class in pursuit of various degrees. Each Friday, however, one finds the libraries deserted, the streets packed with blue blazers and florid summer dresses. These young scholars regularly shed their academic robes to gather in bars and houses, drinking from glasses and Red Solo cups. Perhaps one might imagine a gentle Symposium, the alcohol lubricating the minds of young students so that intellectually-stimulating conversation may more freely flow from their tongues. But venture to the bars, to the hand-me-down sofas and crammed kitchens and you will find not gentle discourse on Herman Melville and biological symbiosis, but instead conversations more suitable for the liquor-minded.

 images (12)               “I fucking LOVE Billy Murray. What’s your favorite Bill Murray movie?”

                “Ground Hog Day. No, no, Ghost Busters.”

                “Did you know he said his favorite film he’s ever done is Broken Flowers?”

                “I’ve never seen it, but I think there’s a nude scene.”

                What has happened to this college student, to transform him from articulate commenter on high culture to pop-culture-sycophant? The easy answer, of course, is alcohol. Though the truth is more complicated, for the customs of the college party are far more intricate and explicit than one might think. Particularly interesting to me is the verb “to rage,” which is slang for “to party very, very, very hard.” Of course, the practice of “Raging” may differ depending on the youthful person asked. Some may contend that drugs must be involved in “Raging” while others insist on the epileptic motion of dance being integral to a proper “Rage.” I’m curious about the origin of this slang phrase and its implications.

                According to Dictionary.com, “Rage” means:

                “angry fury; violent anger” (noun) or “to act or speak with fury”

                http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rage?s=t

                Rage is typically associated with violence, which makes it antithetical to the idea of partying. Generally, one “parties” to escape the negative aspects of life whether they be stress, boredom, or “bad vibes.” Violence, I believe many people can agree, certainly promotes the proliferation of “bad vibes.” Perhaps the impulse to violence intersects with the impulse to party, to be entertained. They may also be separate but powerful instincts. We must question, of course, the assumption that either enjoyment or violence are natural at all, though historically we have assumed exactly that.

images (14)                Let us go back to the Greeks, whom invented a lot of shit including but not limited to anal sex and blow jobs. We could argue (and I am going to despite the lack of academic evidence to back any of this up) that Greeks also invented partying. During festivals, Greeks would drink diluted wine and become uproariously drunk. Not all celebrations played out, however, like Plato’s Symposium. Many of these festivals were ridiculously awesome and the Greeks engaged in what the youth today would term as “raging.” Although culturally ignorant, we still honor the Greeks’ Bacchanalian contribution to society by wearing togas. Well-intentioned, misinformed honorarium of their commingling of intellect with spirit-inspired stupidity.

                We associate Rage with violence done by soldiers, particularly the mythical hero Achilles. images (13)Before heading into battle, Greek fighters the night before would drink boodles of wine, then wake the next day hung-over to fight. Some stories even mention Greek soldiers consuming psychedelic mushrooms before going into battle as a method of distilling fear. Regardless, the act of partying here can be directly correlated with acts of violence—hence, Rage.

                We see modern intersections as well. You remember that time your roommate brought back his fraternity brother to your dorm room, and he—sloshed on buckets of Jungle Juice—punched a hole in the wall? Here we see rage and enjoyment married in a single action, how the intention to have good-natured fun can become violent if unfulfilled or altered. Could we assume then, that “raging” is merely a non-violent release of youthful energy?

                Is the “party” as a social event the ultimate alternative to war?

                Rage is often associated too with madness and enthusiasm. Could it be that the madness exhibited in violent warfare could be otherwise siphoned into a new form of energy-dispersal. Could we solve our differences if only world leaders and war generals who  talk constantly about the size of their guns just got together in a room, drank copious amounts of rum and coke, then danced the night away? Imagine if only Mussolini had donned a glow-stick necklace, taken off his shirt, and head-banged to Skrillex? Would the world be a better place? Or if Stalin had embraced the infamous “bass-drop?”

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                However far-fetched the theory, I stand by it with hope and fervor. That one day we might replace this impulse to violence with the impulse to violence, to transform violent rage to enthusiastic rage and be better as a species for it.

Derek Berry Discusses Process and Inspiration on “Echo Cast”

Take some time to check out this online radio interview with Chris Pendergrast on his show “Echo Cast.” I talked with him for approximately 10 minutes about my inspiration for poetry, the process of writing poems, and the particulars of the poem “Fork,” which came from a story concerning my speech impediment.

I also discuss the “Fun Home” controversy, Roberto Jones’ haven for artists, the meaning of truth in poems, and upcoming projects.

Other artists are also featured, and you should listen to their music and interviews as well. To hear me, go to minute 40 and take a listen. I am very excited to have made connections on Soundcloud and have begun to find a wider audience for my spoken word poems. Enjoy and make sure to comment.

You can find the interview here:

https://soundcloud.com/chris-pendergraft/echocast-show-3

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Also, make sure to check out Chris’s music here: https://soundcloud.com/chris-pendergraft

And his art here: http://chrispendergraft.deviantart.com/

 

Fighting Back: LGBT Rallies and Academic Freedom

1-fun-home-alison-bechdel-coverIn late February, South Carolina Representative Garry Smith punished the College of Charleston for its choice of College Reads! book, which was Alison Bechdel’s tragi-comic Fun Home. Although the state’s funds did not actually fund the College Reads! Program, the state legislature chose to cut $52,000 in funding to the College. This caused quite the kerfluffle among CofC students, including myself, who began a series of protests against the legislature’s decisions. This coincided also with the appointment of Glenn McConnell as College president after a politically dubious search process. On Monday, we held another protest, as Fun Home the Musical came to Charleston. Having watched the show myself, I hope it great success and also hope that the play helps spread the message of how homophobia can destroy people’s lives.

 

 

 

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I read the following poems at last Friday’s protests:

Several writers across the country have also spoken up about academic freedom, information for which you can find here: https://www.facebook.com/outloudsc

Find media on the protests and controversy here:

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/college-of-charleston-stages-fun-home-gay-themed-play-protest

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/23/us/for-genteel-college-of-charleston-an-unaccustomed-turmoil.html?_r=0

http://www.postandcourier.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Site=CP&Date=20140421&Category=PC16&ArtNo=421009997&Ref=PH&Profile=1005&SectionCat=c-of-c-drama-continues-crowds-pack-memminger-for-controversial-fun-home

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/20/south-carolina-colleges-lgbt-books_n_4825489.html

http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/HaireoftheDog/archives/2014/04/19/the-last-gasp-of-the-lost-cause-and-the-mcconnell-cofc-controversy

http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/charleston/were-having-to-fight-our-asses-off-to-protect-academic-freedom/Content?oid=4905809

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/20/fun-home-college-of-charleston-_n_5181530.html

Cistern, 5pm

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dangling from his shoulder as he

stretches onto his side in the Cistern’s shadow mosaic,

his crisp blazer folded beneath his white crown.

When I approach to ask

if he might sign a petition for everyone

to start loving one another, he lowers his book and

wordlessly draws a pen from his breast pocket, and leans

forward to grab the clipboard.

Upcoming Events in Charleston This Week

Tonight! Reblution at the Music Farm. Doors open at 8pm. Shows starts at 9pm.

 

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Tonight! Matt Foley releases his book “We Could Be Oceans” at the 827. Doors open at 7pm. BYOB.

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Tomorrow night! John Brown’s Body plays at The Pour House. Show starts at 10, doors: 9pm.

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Charleston Hype Launch Party at King Dusko this Saturday!

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Sunday, February 23, 2014: Big Gigantic at the Music Farm. Show starts at 9pm. Get tickets soon because they’re almost sold out.

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Monday, February 24, 2014: Susan Meyers reads from her new book “Dear, Dear Stagger Grass” at the East Bay Meeting House Open Mic.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014: Derek Berry releases his book “Skinny Dipping with Strangers” at the 827 Poetry Night. Followed by an open mic and party!

Snapshot 5 (1-3-2014 5-52 PM)

 

827 Poetry Slam

Two rounds of a slam, here recorded on video.

Snapshot 5 (1-3-2014 5-52 PM)

Round 1:

Final Round:

 

Enjoy, leave comments, come out to the slam. We throw down poetic language every other week in Avondale in the very cool art gallery 827.

827 Poetry Night: “In the Year of the Snake-Skin Boots” and other poems

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At my significant other’s first feature, I got the chance to jump onto the mic and share some new poems. More poems coming soon, to be uploaded tomorrow.

“In The Year of the Snake-Skin Boots” and “What Masturbation and My Poetry Have In Common.”

Releasing a Spoken Word Album: “Perfect Nights”

fkwbsldbYesterday, I stepped into the impromptu recording studio of a music-engineering student from Clemson. We had agreed to help each other, he more than me. He needed practice producing and mixing music. While spoken word may not be exactly music, it certainly sounds good recorded. I felt that my poetry required something auditory as well as visual, meaning the book that will be released in early January would not adequately cover the bases. I wanted something to accompany the book, something that would lend to the reader that special voice the poems and poet possess. Therefore, my producer friend agreed to assist me in releasing in album.

It took far less time to record than I would have thought. I was no ensemble band, no rock group, not even  an acoustic guitar player. I stood before the mic with just a voice, which makes one want to be creative. Then I blew out my voice like a burnt-out truck engine, growling and screaming and swooning and whispering into the mic until eight poetry tracks were laid down. Some I had to perform twice, thrice, ten times, while others I nailed on my first shot.

All in all, I’m satisfied with the entire experience and believe people will enjoy the product being released. No musical interludes, no gimmicks—just a poet, his words, and his voice.

We have tentatively set the release of the album for January 2nd, the date of my Augusta feature. I am very excited to return to Augusta to M.A.D. Studios to share some of the poetry I’ve penned in the past year. If this performance proves a success, I’d like to come back time and time again whenever I can. Because the book will not be prepared by then, I will release the CD.

The CD is titled “Perfect Nights,” for the poem “Perfect Nights” which captures the youthful spirit of many of my poems. Several of these poems are included on the album, poems of celebration, as well as more standard crowd-pleasers like “Skinny Dipping with Strangers” and the morose yet uplifting “Halitus.” Perhaps I will find a way for those of you who live far away to download the album digitally. Of course if you send me some money in the mail, I will send you a CD in the mail. I will be selling a majority of these, however, as open mics and feature shows and slams.

Enjoy the feature poem from the album below and keep tuned in to hear more about poetic adventures. Finally, make sure to come out to Augusta if you’re in the area on the second to experience not just me but a pantheon of talented local performers. Five dollars to get in, then free coffee and words all night long!

First Feature Success

1391638_239826529509783_738692741_nLast night, I performed my first feature poetry show in front of a healthy crowd of friends, middle schoolers, and talented strangers. Following the 30-minute performance came an open mic and poetry slam. Two close friends will be featuring next time.  Unfortunately, we got zero video from the performance last night, but here are some videos from the previous Wednesday at Boone’s Bar. As a bonus, I’ve included a video from back in 2012. ” More videos will be posted on the blog soon, and until then, one may find them on my Youtube channel.

Bonus video I found on Youtube of me performing poetry in the twelfth grade at a Graduation Party: