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:



Also, make sure to check out Chris’s music here:

And his art here:



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!

“Not a Romance Novel”

You say, you want nothing more than to kiss me,

and I say, please turn off your damned phone.

Don’t you realize you’re missing the stars?

They’re trying to make a conversation with us

with winks and twinkles and hazy introductions.

This isn’t a romance novel

and it’s not a rodeo either.

It’s just another night of breathing and

of panoramic speculations of the galaxy

and of summer.

7 Reasons to Do Something for the First Time

1. The first and only time I ever painted my chest was for a Volleyball game, the state game at the White Knoll high school gymnasium. The year before, our team won the championship, and this year, we would fall barely short. During halftime, we stood in the bitter wind smearing white paint onto our stomachs and chest.

The way the paint mixed with my hair, I could only think of how terrible it would be to wipe off. Then we wrote letters on us; I’m not sure, but I believe I was the exclamation point.

We still lost, but I don’t foresee any game I will ever feel strongly enough about again to spend three hours scraping paint from my wind-scarred nipples.

2. Because the first time I ever kissed a girl, it was a dare at a Valentine’s Dance. I’m not sure that’s how first kisses should happen.

3. Because the first time I tried to ride down the huge hill in our neighborhood without once applying the breaks, I veered into the grass and crashed into a tree.

I had been selling Joe Corbi’s Pizza door-to-door for a school fundraiser in the second grade. I was bored. Perched at the top of the hill, I allowed myself to roll down, picking up momentum until I could no longer control the bike, careening toward a short tree. The trunk halted the bike, but not me; I flipped over the handlebars, busting my head open on someone’s driveway. It was very cool that my forehead squirted blood like a water pistol until I nearly passed out.

Not two days ago, biking down Calhoun to visit the library, I experienced this unique event again. A car braked suddenly. My bicycle’s brakes work only when you pedal backwards, and to do so quickly requires me to stand up. I did this to avoid ramming the car’s bumper, but the sudden stop forced me to again tumble over the handlebars, which this time turned downwards, my body flailing, smashing against the road.

Fortunately, the vehicle behind me did not crush my head and allowed me to push my pathetic bike out of the rode. Once I made sure my head had not again become a gory fountain, I rode all the way to the library, scraped, bruised, bleeding. The only real causality was the button of my favorite red shorts, which had popped off quite violently upon force of impact.

4. Because the first time I ever tried to write a novel, my fifth grade teacher read it to my class, even the parts that seemed a little gory. Even the entire chapter about the main characters being taken in by this couple that resembled Mr. and Mrs. Claus– they are executed at the end of the chapter, tied to a wooden stake and burned alive.

Despite all of the strangely disturbing events in the book I wrote (it was only about 50,000 words long), she read it. Other kids seemed to like it. It was the first time I felt like people might one day read books I could write.

5. Because the first time I read the short story “Guts” by Chuck Palahniuk, I was riding a train. An hour-long ride to Stuttgart from Heilbronn, just the right amount of time needed to read short stories. I nearly passed out or threw up or a combination of the two. Instead, I sweated and worried about the words.

This was maybe the first time a book affected me in a physical sense as much as it did in a mental, philosophical sense.

6. The first time I ever went to a concert, the ticket cost me only $17. I arrived five hours early in Asheville and stood for three hours in front of the venue to watch The Tallest Man on Earth. But I got to stand on the front row, basically feeling his spit rain down on me as he sang.

Some people have never stood at the front row of a concert before.

7. When I opened my eyes for the first time today, I thought about the beauty of doing things for the first time. Listening to new songs. Listening to your stupid friends and trying stupid things with them. Reading recently published books. Going to places you’ve never been before, just to try their offerings of the grilled cheese sandwich.

There is a sprawling, grand adventure awaiting us all, and each day, we embark upon it anew.


Excerpt: Our Cures for Boredom

{Curious about my newest project “In Lickskillet”? While I work on seriously editing the novel, why not take a sneak peek at one of the stories written by Blaine. He arrives in detention and must divert his attention for the duration of his retention. Because readers of this blog hardly get a feel for the fiction that I write (only non-fiction essays), here’s a short excerpt to satiate curiosities until I can publish this book for real.}

The first two hours flew by as they always did because were forced to do schoolwork. But we never had to work all day. Given such leisure, we tore through class work and homework and future projects. Bent over like skeleton scholars transcribing the end times, we wrote tirelessly until nothing else presented itself to be written. Then each of us, one by one, was overwhelmed by morbid boredom which tasted awful. Like synthetic cheese, the sort individually plastic-wrapped by the slice.

Then it was six more hours with a novel and under-the-breath mumbles. It would turn out the novel you snatched from a rogue bookcase would not actually deliver you from boredom. Probably because it was not a novel at all but instead a Spanish-English dictionary. Even considering that you could learn enough to take a Spring Break trip to Cancun, the entire experience probably turned out pretty fucking dull.

A nausea overcame me along with the droll feeling of boredom.

If I swam, I could hear soft tones, piano-like notes drawn out. Eating curry, I saw a haze of red. But with boredom, nothing happening. My condition was unprovoked. I felt the void, the abyss that I stared into, it staring back at me.

Then I remembered the tin of pills in my pocket. Pure, pharmaceutical narcotics, without the enzymes that slowed down the release of codeine into the body’s system. Just pure hydrocodone, ready for consumption. I tapped Declin’s shoulder again and passed him one. Generosity, my ultimate nature. One might have done him in, but I needed four.

With a strange look at me, Declin slipped the pill into his mouth. As if he knew what he was getting himself into. Even I didn’t accept drugs from strangers. But here he was, fresh and eager to prove himself bad and dangerous just as we all tried to be bad and dangerous.

Around the room where we sat, animals stared down at us from behind motivational quotes from saints, presidents, and Oprah Winfrey. A lion throned regally on golden plains, the quote hovering above set in bold, dazzling font, turned to stare at me. The animals turned and watched. Their eyes followed me and I slipped into a chaotic high before I quite realized what I’d done. No true hallucinations here, but a fine, ethereal high that cured my boredom.

Boredom: our natural state, our default. For our entire teen lives in Lickskillet, boredom was true evil, our archenemies, the Darth Vader to our Luke Skywalker. We the free rebels fighting for sacred liberty from this, our mortal enemy we called “boredom.”

We tried everything to absolve ourselves from this carnal sin. Most drank heavily, even idiotically. Which was the best way to drink, with the high possibility of death. Most of the boys drank beer, challenging each other to gulp down more until all had passed out. Girls preferred liquor, mixed or straight. And then everyone, roaring drunk, would smash boredom against the walls. Would take off our boredom’s clothes or pass out on boredom’s lawn.

Marijuana was our new vogue—joint-rolling became as common a social skill as driving or shooting a spitball. Once kids started smoking green, the floodgates opened for Woodstock-ian levels of experimentation.  For me, this meant experiencing extreme forms of my condition.

Our ailment was our failure to stimulate ourselves. This town cultured an illness which festered hot and rotting in each of us. A convulsing itch that we scratched until our skin burned raw and our eyes went bloodshot. Thrown into a cycle of ecstatic highs and dull lows, we lived a constant war.

We chucked eggs at houses, gave car rides to hoboes at two in the morning, snuck into the Red Hole to smoke and skinny dip, drove out in cars to abandoned thickets of wood and coaxed young girls to blow us, and didn’t give a fuck about what lay ahead. Or maybe that was just me. Sick of ambition and dangling my fate by the whims of deadbeat parents.

Arts in the Heart Poetry

Today I attended a very cool poetry performance featuring performers from around South Carolina and Georgia. Poetry, if you do not know, is extremely important to me. It gives me a platform and a voice.

I read first a poem that won during the Poetry Matters contest last Spring. This same poem is going to published in “My World,” an anthology by The Live Poets Society of New Jersey. That poem is about the state of our public education system, called “A Savage Yawp.” I also performed a poem called “American.” Hopefully, I can post videos of both poems fairly soon.

While over there, I got to see some really amazing performances. Poets form such an awesome community. I encourage you to go check out some of the websites I gleaned when I was there:

Also, I’d like to introduce to you to a poet who definitely inspires me, Catherine the Great. I’ll post a link to her youtube channel so you can check her out:

If you have any local poetry readings or artist events, remember to go support them. You will keep people like me from playing on street corners trying to get their voice heard. More poems and poem videos coming soon. Remember to like my facebook page too so you can get awesome updates straight to fb. Just click that blue button off to the right!

I’ll keep y’all informed on all the poetry business for me!

Skinny Dipping with Strangers: Hip-Hop Remix

I perform Skinny Dipping with Strangers at Sit-a-Spell Coffeehouse. But THIS time, I include a rap interlude. Booyah!

Although the rap section will be omitted from the poem in my upcoming chapbook, I have written a few sections like that for poems. What I call, “Making poems like what modern music is.” Sometimes, poems have musical interludes, sometimes raps, but it seems like so many songs now feature rappers. Thus, I have done so in this poem.

Without further ado, here is the headlining poem, remixed hip-hop style.

Derek Berry’s Collected Works: Coming Soon

The results are in…

The title of my chapbook is going to be… SKINNY DIPPING WITH STRANGERS.

It will include several of the poems that I’ve posted to this blog and even one short story. I’m not publishing it with any company, instead just by myself. There will be a limited number of printed copies, which right now, I am formatting. Excting? Yes… you can OWN a booklet of my poetry so that when you need something to read in the bathroom, BAM… poetry.

When you need some poems to peruse, pick up my book. I have not decided at price it will sell, but should be from $2-5. There MIGHT also be an e-book version that I will sell from my website (which I’m working with a programmer on designing.)

If you’ve not heard any of my poetry before, you can watch/read some of it here:

There will, however, be several other poems with topics including rocket ships, Alzheimer’s, Harry Potter, Shakespeare, Americans, parachutes, and skinny dipping.

This will be a very small publication, as the title “chapbook” implies. In the future, I hope to publish a collected works, but for now, you can read  a preview of my work. Thank you for keeping up with this blog and commenting with such nice, thoughtful comments. I hope I’ll receive similar reviews of this first publication.

For more info, subscribe here or like my page on facebook:

Again, thank you and tell anyone you might know about my blog and work.