“Fork,” by Derek Berry

A performance at the King Dusko open mic about speech therapy and the importance of having a voice. Written a lot of new poems, fortunately, that will soon flow forth on the mic. Check them out as well as my forthcoming chapbook entitled Skinny Dipping with Strangers.

Leave thoughts below or on Youtube video.



“Lords of the Arts, Revived.”

Below is a video from King Dusko’s first open mic, co-hosted by Khalil Ali and myself. Though the first few lines of this poem are cut off, here is it shared. The first line: “For those who wish to pursue art professionally…” Click the link to listen.

Lords of the Arts, Revived


For more pictures or videos, visit: http://charlestonpoets.com/

King Dusko Open Mic Promotional

IMG_0284 IMG_0285 IMG_0288

We Live Down the Hall from Good Vibes

You can feel the vibes—they live in your ears

and they party all night with music with heavy bass.

Some nights, when you’re trying to sleep, the vibes will rise,

they will eat microwave chocolate chip waffles,

then dance like lunatics in their bedrooms.


The vibes really enjoy shitty pizza,

preferably at two a.m. in the morning,

and typically, they do not like to

tip the middle-aged delivery man.


The vibes live next door, and they like to chill.

When you first met them, they ensured you

that they were fresh and cool, that they just wanted “good vibes.”

Then they littered the hallway with PBR aluminum cans

and play FIFA at top volume

and chucked glass bottles out the window on tourists.


The vibes dislike bathing and never go to class.

The vibes are fresh and cool,

they don’t want any tension.

“A Triathlon for Beached Whales”

Last Monday night, I performed in Charleston again for the first time in months. Unfortunately, we did not video tape both poems, but we managed to capture the last poem: an ode about the relationship between poetry and alcohol called “A Triathlon for Beached Whales.” Before I begin to poem, you hear the last few lines of “Spirit of the Bear.” Enjoy.


Notes on a Long Island: The Spot

{Stories are 80% true, according to Long Island local Matthew Harberg, my roommate and King of the Sea. Having interviewed him on various subjects from the Long Island area, I have transcribed a series of stories exploring the culture and atmosphere of the island, though I have never visited there and know nothing about it. This particular story deals with a surf-shop owner from Long Island with a list of eccentricities.}

On the news, Snake watched the news anchor dead-pan as she explained how the police tackled a drunk millionaire earlier than day. “Local millionaire Ronald Artt is bringing charges against the Long Island Police Department for police brutality after they chased him into the street and brought him forcibly to the ground. Moments before, Mr. Artt had been standing in downtown Manhatten, wearing a suit and pink dress gloves, shooting a water gun wildly into the air.” She shuffled her papers and looked to her co-anchor, who took over with a stifled hesitation.

“Yes, well, reportedly Mr. Artt claims that the gun was obviously a toy one, that the officers were quick to jump on him because—”

Clicking the Tv off, Snake lowered his head and looked across the counter at Carston. “What do you want?” He was seventy-years old, but often visited clubs with middle-aged Guido’s. He tagged along with them, telling ridiculous stories and pumping his fist half-heartedly to techno-rap.

Carston looked to Danny, glowering from behind his orange-tinted shades. “Man, just the—you know, whatever you sell.”

Snake shrugged. “Surfing board wax? A wetsuit?” The two boys stood in a shack just off the beach, a piece of beach the man behind the counter claimed to own. Though condos and houses crowded against the strand, the beach belonged officially to Snake—dread-haired geriatric owner of The Spot. Though he ran the joint ostensibly as a local surf shop, The Spot made the majority of its revenue in the local drug trade. Surfer dudes shopped there for small items, buying ounces under the counter—rumor had lead the boys through the glass doors plastered with advertisements for local club events months-past (Day Glo, Pirate Theme Night, $2 Jell-o Shots), across the sand-strewn tile, and to the front desk.

He sat like a regal Buddha on the steep wooden stool, his pointy elbows propped on the un-sanded counter. “Boys, are you paying any attention?”

“Sure, but we heard you sold—um, more than just surfing supplies?”

“Oh, oh!” He waved his arms, sliding off his stool and wheezing, guffawing. “I’m being a bit loopy, huh? I know the days come and go like they do, don’t you know?”

“Sure, we know. So, how much?”

“For the emu? He ain’t for sale?”


“It’s the last one I got, go look at him, if you want.” He hastily unlocked the door behind him, waving his arms for the boys to follow. As they trailed quietly after him, however, he did not lead them into a secret vault where he kept his stash of drugs; rather, he lead them into the backyard, fenced in with cheap vinyl fencing units—and in the center of the sand-and-grass lot was an emu tied to a wooden post.

“What the hell is that?”

“That’s the last one, wouldn’t you know?” Snaked shrugged, his dreads rolling off his shoulders, and he bore his red-cracked eyes into Carston’s. “So, what about it?”

“Uh, I didn’t come here to buy—an emu? What about the—you know, the stuff? The chronic?”

download              “I ain’t gonna sell this emu, anyhow,” said Snake, his face cracking like a broken public fountain. “He’s the last I got. The first one, he died. A sad occasion. We put together a funeral for him, a whole affair with all my closest friends—his two emu buddies too. Then not a week later, one of the others escapes. This one’s named Sunshine. Probably just mourning Birdie’s death. God, we all loved Birdie, but Sunshine, he couldn’t take it. He just broke out. I don’t know how.”

“I’m sorry, sit. I—um, I didn’t know?”

Beside the emu stood a large white van—Snake had always wanted a VW van from the seventies where he could take local ladies, but he settled for something infinitely creepier—a windowless van spray-painted with comical signage. Peace emblems, color-faded flowers, and the paint-stenciled image of Bob Marley.

“Used to love animals, take care of them? Had a whole menagerie—wouldn’t you know? Alligators, dogs, snakes as big as your arms, as long as a car, and even tamed squirrels. But they came and took them? Wouldn’t you know the police are always sticking their nose into business ain’t their business.” He snuffled, then wrapped his arms around the emu, which shuffled awkwardly and pecked his shoulder in violent defense. “But then this emu escapes and it—well, it falls right into the bay. Runs out in front of cars, across town, down to the pier, trots down its length, and jumps headlong into the sea. Damn emu’s dead. It swam around a while, until the fire department came and scooped it out the water.”

“It—it died?” Carston began to back up, grabbing Danny’s shoulder. “I think we came to the wrong place.”

“The damn emu died,” Snake said, wiping his tears. “I love Sunshine—he was like a brother to me. Loved him more than anything I ever loved.” His raspy voice died down. “All the fault of the fire department—if they had been more careful, that’s what killed him. They didn’t take their time getting him out of the bay—they killed him.”

Danny shrugged. “Guess that sucks. Well.”

“Of course the police couldn’t side with me, considering they didn’t realize I had any emus in the first place, but a man’s got to do something with his life’s work.”

“Sorry.” Carston looked at his feet, clearing his throat. “Guess we really just wanted surfing wax after all.”

Once Snake sold them an overpriced bottle of wax and given them half-off coupons for entrance to the Karaoke Party at Senor Frogs (which had occurred the weekend before), Snake returned to the back yard, rubbed his emu’s neck softly, and called his lawyer seventeen times. His lawyer never picked up the phone, not to hear Snake complain again about the emu incident—he had already been on the television. Returning inside, Snake turned the mounted Tv back on, hoping he had not missed his televised interview.

Why “I Love It (I Don’t Care)” May Have Redeeming Cultural Value

Like English teachers who labor to drain the meaning out of every sentence in a novel, I want to try to deconstruct and explicate the simple, catchy pop tune “I Love It (I Don’t Care)” by Icona Pop. The song has been playing over and over on the radio, and often I must suffer through it because I don’t own an IPod and often forget to bring CD’s. But the tune itself is not exactly without merit—it provokes an interesting commentary on our generation. Do we really “not care?”

First off, if you haven’t heard the song, which is doubtful, or would like a reminder of its glitzy glamorizing of apathy:


icona-pop-iconic-EP-400x400            After listening to song too many times while driving down the road, I glean two possibilities about the tune’s overall plot. Most likely she’s describing a failed relationship with an older, more serious lover; the other possibility is that she’s actually describing her relationship with her parents. Because of the emphasis on party lifestyle and young hedonism in the music video, I am going to go with the second option.

The main refrain of course is “I don’t care,” which clearly manifests the feelings of youth today, the generation of Icona Pop and me (clearly 90’s children). My generation lacks anything to care about beyond their own petty lives, not because worthy things do not exist, but rather because we do not focus on those things (i.e. war, global climate change, human trafficking, etc.) We don’t care about anything but our own lives, and even those to us seem ethereal, inconsequential. We’re trapped in a system that marginalizes the efforts and desires of the youth, and so we figure, why bother?

I should clarify that when I say we, I mean our generation as a whole, and I am not writing this to defend the perversion of apathy, but rather critique it. In fact, I somehow wonder whether this song does exactly that—while glorifying “not caring,” is it also pointing out the lack of involvement youth have in politics, culture, and their own futures?

After each “I don’t care,” comes “I love it,” which is a disturbing idea. Not only do we not care that we are spiting our parents, but rather we enjoy it. We are proud of our own nihilism.

We reject the wisdom of other generations, instead relying on our innate instincts to carry us through life. See lines: “You’re so damn hard to please, we gotta kill this switch
You’re from the 70’s, but I’m a 90’s bitch.” This line convinces me that the song is talking about more than a failed relationship, but rather a series of failed relationship, the failure for one generation to transfer knowledge to the next; we constantly ignore the advice of the experienced.

Furthermore, we seek an illusion of perpetual twenty-something ecstasy, retaining the notion our lives can be a images (14)nonstop, adrenaline-fueled party, relying on drugs and dancing to keep us in the “Milky Way.” This part of the song reflects our desire to reject earthly principles such as class, money, and politics, embracing a more humanitarian philosophy “up in space.” Of course, the fact that “I don’t care” undermines the means to ever affect such a philosophy for this generation.

We are disappointed with our life has turned out and want something better than what our elders built, but rather than attempt something better, we caustically accept our lot. We do nothing to actually change our situation, simply referring to fact that we don’t even care.

Crashing the car and letting it burn serves as a symbolic act of revenge and rebellion for the singer, but she may fail to see the futility in the act. While angry, she may feel satisfied with her action, but the action is merely symbolic. Her frustration with the person she’s addressing may never be resolved, because she like most of my generation only symbolically rebel from our parents (or rather, from old traditions and old ways of thinking). This is not progress.

images (15)            Progress is changing the way we act and think, not just symbolically crashing cars or getting tattoos or doing drugs or dying our hair or having sex with strangers. Teenagers have been systematically programmed to react in ways that only harm themselves, not the system which has wronged them. Therefore, they become cynical much too young, usually resigned to a world system because “that’s the way it is.”

But I refuse to believe that all of us truly “don’t care,” or even that we “love it.” Maybe I am reading into the song too deeply, but each time I listen to the synth-heavy pop ballad, I think of the responsibility each of us holds for the future and the fact there is no room for apathy.

Ballad of the Hot Dog Man

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/10/dining/the-hot-dog-redefined-one-cart-at-a-time.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/10/dining/the-hot-dog-redefined-one-cart-at-a-time.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

The Hot Dog Man stands down the street from the Hobo Chiropractor, practicing his legitimate business of selling students hot dogs. Each year, students from active political alliances ply the school for healthier options, for vegetarian entrees, for clean facilities, and for a balanced meal plan. Meanwhile, the hot dog man roosts in a plastic fold-up lounge chair, hawking hot dogs for $2.00 a piece. For $3.50, you can get a deal: a hotdog, a bag of chips, and a soda.

Each morning, he arrives on the corner, his hotdog  cart rattling behind his truck. Attached with a hitch, it bounces into each pothole, threatening to collapse. A picture of a hotdog displayed in bright colors on its side, the cart stands on a small raised area, the resident chiropractor crouched on the steps below. He pops open his yellow umbrella and sits in its shade. Students approach throughout the day, haggling for drinks or plastic-encased mystery meats.

I often wonder about hotdog man, whether he lives a solitary life. Does he love hotdogs or does he see this enterprise as purely business? When did he decide to open a hotdog stand near the College of Charleston, and what great racket has he tapped into now that he is selling his meat via transportable cart? Does he have a hotdog wife (Hot Dog Woman) with whom he has had little hotdog babies?

On Sunday afternoons, does he grill up delicious, fresh hotdogs and serve them to his Oscar-Meyer-obsessed relatives?

My theory is a darker one, on that can only be proved by shining a light into his childhood. In my venerable imagination, this hotdog paladin began his quest with The Hamburger Incident…

Five years old, Hot Dog Boy has grown up in Brooklyn his entire life. One day while drawing chalk dragons on the cracked sidewalk, a lunch cart rolls by. The children rush the cart for their lunches: pizza and hotdogs and hamburgers and fries. Behind this vender stands a great billboard exclaiming “Best Hamburgers East of 87th Street and West of 89th!”

This superimposed over the biggest burger he has seen in his life. A juicy patty dripping grease, the tomatoes still wet with condensation. The lettuce green and crisp. The bun steaming and slightly browned.

While Hot Dog Boy stares up at the sign, waiting to order his food, a terrible gust stirs down the street. The sign topples, the boy crushed underneath. Three hours and four hotdog venders later, they drag the boy from under the sign. Forever scarred.

Now he sells hotdogs in protest, settled into his chair under the yellow umbrella. Waiting patiently for the day to use his hotdog finesse to strike out the wicked reign of hamburgers. To one day rule the street-food world. First, hamburgers will fall, then falafels and rotten sushi, powdered crepes and single-sliced pizza, roasted nuts and gyros, kebabs and burritos, tacos and Panini. One day only the Hot Dog Man will remain.

Thrift Shop Culture: An Investigative Look

Derek Berry here, with the cultural news of the day.

Thrift Shops have taken over the clothing industry, with the popularity of Goodwill and Salvation Army on the rise. Brand-name stores, however, have not been amiss at the rise thrift shopping. Victoria’s Secret has opened its own thrift shop in its Miami location, and thousands have flocked to pay the same prices for less organization.

Source: http://www.autostraddle.com/holigay-2012-gift-guide-bookworms-and-thrift-shops-150627/
Source: http://www.autostraddle.com/holigay-2012-gift-guide-bookworms-and-thrift-shops-150627/

Teens and cougar moms waited outside the store for hours to snag the deals. Victoria’s Secret has introduced many new lines of clothing including “Thong with an awkward hole in it,” “Ironically Ugly Sweater Lingerie,” and “Bras that don’t quite fit right.” The Sweater Lingerie sold out within minutes, though no one bothered with the thongs which were shoved under the sweater lingerie in a metal-wire-mesh bin positioned directly in front of the entrance.

Other clothiers have adopted the trend by eschewing mannequins or even dressing them in mismatched outfits, drawing Salvador Dali moustaches onto their faces. American Eagle has considered changing its mascot to the Dodo Bird. President Michael Ennis comments, “Well, the Eagle is a stylish, mainstream bird that we didn’t want to be connected with any longer. Dodo’s? They’re extinct. There’s nothing as retro as being extinct.”

Abercrombie & Fitch clothing lines have attempted previous reboots, but apparently no one knows the difference between a moose and an elk.

Clothing stores have not been the only businesses affected by the

Source: http://www.sacredmint.com/albrecht-durer-statue.htm
Source: http://www.sacredmint.com/albrecht-durer-statue.htm

influx of thrift-shop-madness. Video stores have begun replacing their DVD and Blu-ray collections with VHS versions of various Tyler Perry films. Furniture renters such as La-Z Boy and Rooms-To-Go have opted to sell slightly broken tables and couches, lamps without any bulbs, and several variations of Praying Hands statuettes.

This is Derek Berry, with your cultural news report of the day. We will keep you updated on the culture as it changes, but for now go to your nearest Goodwill, buy shoes that are too tight, and keep “poppin’ tags.”

Publish a Novel In Just One Week for Three Easy Down Payments

typewriter monkey 1Need to write the next Great American Novel but don’t have time to live a life of experience, wisdom, and practice first? Join our class Life As a Writer In a Week to do just that!

Day One, we will murder your family and our hard-nailed therapists will taunt your depression until it blooms into creative writerly genius.

Day Two, we’ll practice your interviewing skills. Everyone knows selling novels relies on marketing them, so before you ever put pen to paper, make sure to know what to say to Oprah when she asked you about your process or the themes relevant to your work. You can bravely nod into the camera, sharing encouraging advice to aspiring writers.

Day Three, we begin the brain-storming process by placing you alone in a room with a hole in the ground, and you’ll be administered morphine, and you must commit a full 24 hours to smashing a typewriter with delusional prose. Whatever drugs you need, we’ll provide them, because as we all know, the more cryptic the masterpiece, the more papers will be written about it. Professors centuries from now will pick apart your sentences and discover meaning because, well, your subconscious or something.

Day Four, we take away the booze and drugs and morphine drip, forcing you to go into immediate and dramatic withdrawal. Every writer must kick his addiction and slough through Hell for the sake of “experience,” so we’ll send you back at work for the last half of the day so that they fire your ass for barfing on the floor after being absent for three and half days.

Day Five, we put you back in the room while you wallow in self-pity through the typewriter which has become a defunct organ of your soul. Today, you finish your masterpiece with beautiful obscurity.

Day Six, we use half of the tuition for this crash course to self-publish your book, and each of you will receive one copy. We will hold a party to allow everyone to indulge in vice’s and give them the opportunity to sign up for Spiritual Journeys for Aspiring Writers: How To Crank Out a Sequel.

Life As a Writer in a Week retains all future publishing rights and will not refund your tuition if you drop the class early. Please remember our company is not responsible for any loss of life, loss of occupation, depression, drug addiction, or fetish erotica that may have spawned from the program.