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Poem of the week - Dominic Berry

Last Summer, I had one of my regular ‘How did I get here?’ moments.

Ever since I became a performance poet as an actual bona fide career choice (yes Mum I repeat, it IS a proper job) I have found myself regularly having to take a breath and acknowledge the opportunities it’s offered me. Working alongside people who I’ve admired from afar who are doing their job in, if not the way I’d like to do mine, then certainly as effectively as I’d like to.

Doing a ten minute spot at Manchester’s ‘Punk In Drublic’ in June this year offered me one of those moments. Scheduled in the 2nd half of the show, my task was to perform two poems to a packed crowd. A packed crowd who had turned up to see a headline set from Dominic Berry. Dom (he’s Dom now - we’re like bestest bezzie poetry mates) had been someone I had followed on social media for a while and was that most stress inducing type of person.

A fellow poet who works in schools with children.

The competition.

The industry standard. (And it’s a very high standard)

Of course, my brain immediately starts making comparisons. How can I possibly have the cheek to perform my stuff in front of him? He’s been doing this stuff for AGES! He’s the Glastonbury Poet In Residence for pities sake! They’ll laugh me off the stage! To say I was nervous was a little bit of an understatement.

Thirty seconds before I go on? Mr Berry, front row, drops his drink. Smash. Stage area soaked. Broken pieces of glass everywhere.

And immediately the nerves were gone. That Dommy B? That bloke who’s got a publishing deal and has done a squllion schools and has done telly work as well? He’s scrambling about on the floor with the host picking up glass and apologising profusely to all involved. Especially me. He’s a human bean as well. (And incidentally a very nice one too - I can’t recommend working with him nearly enough)

By the end of the summer and after checking out his ‘adult’ Edinburgh show ‘I Can Make You Fail Slightly Less’ - I’d got to understand that he’s much more than just the children’s performer I’d mistakenly thought he was. Reflective, hard hitting when necessary - but ultimately just like the rest of us. Visible and fractured - trying his best to communicate the human spirit through language.

This poem - from his book ‘No Tigers’ is I think one of the halfway houses between Dominic Berry the ‘adult’ performer and Dommy B - kids poet. It’s one of my favourites as I see just a little bit of myself in there.

I’ve also been watching a lot of Dara Ó Briain’s 8-Bit show about retro computer games on Dave this week so this one seemed just perfect. Enjoy!!

Final Boss

There is a guy who likes to fight

inside his tiny flat.

His thumbs are drumming death-moves on

a black controller pad.

Today he’ll top his highest score.

He feels it in his heart.

He sits beside his PS4.

He presses X. It starts.

He knows he won’t be going out.

The people talk and stare.

Down at the shop, his breath would stop.

He’d start to gasp for air.

No air. He’d fall. No air. They’d call

him names. His shame. His sweat.

How can the master life’s controls?

He can’t control his breath.

What if the children spat at him?

What is some stones were thrown?

What if a girl began to laugh

And filmed it on her phone?

What if a normal woman,

In her normal coat and hat,

thought she could say, “Are you OK? “

He couldn’t cope with that.

There is no cheat to beat this game,

achievements will stay locked,

But in his flat he’s got some soup

and half a can of pop,

So here, at home, he’s saved. Alone.

He knows he won’t be ill.

His PS4 says Level Up.

He presses X to kill.

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