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Dominic Berry: performance poet

Dominic Berry. Photo: Literature Northwest

Performance poet Dominic Berry has appeared on CBeebies and Channel 4. He won New York’s Nuyorican Poetry Cafe Slam and has toured his first family show, the Dragon Who Hates Poetry. He is currently performing the follow-up, Spark, the Goblin Wizard.

 

How did you get into poetry and performing?

I really liked poetry at school; I had brilliant English and drama teachers and was inspired by the way poetry was taught. I was also in the National Youth Theatre of Wales. I wanted be an actor but when I moved to Manchester I saw people performing poetry. It was amazing; it combined what I loved about literature with stagemanship and performance. That was the moment I thought, ‘That is what I want to do’. As cheesy as it sounds there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think how fortunate I am for being able to do what I always wanted to.

 

Was poetry a refuge for you?

I was really bullied at school. I was born in London and when I was eight my family whisked me away to the west cost of Pembrokeshire – beautiful area but not a lot for a young effeminate vegan poet to get up to. At junior school I was outgoing but secondary school was a real mixed bag. I just felt so different from everybody. As well as the poetry I got into Dungeons and Dragons and fantasy and that’s recently influenced my writing for children.

 

Can you remember the first time you performed poetry?

I was 19, I’d moved to Manchester, and I saw a poster in the window of the much-missed Green Room Theatre advertising a show by the gingham transvestite radical socialist poet Chloe Poems. I was utterly taken with it, and thought I had to do my own poetry there. As well as the thrill of performing myself it was great to be with other poets. The guest poet that night was Rosie Lugosi; she dresses up as a bisexual dominatrix vampire poet. What a thing! As much as I loved poetry at school, this isn’t what we were taught.

 

How does your writing for children differ from your work for adults?

At the moment I think my writing for children is better. I say that because children are such harsh critics. Sometimes it can be difficult to get an honest reaction from an adult poetry audience – there’s a lot of polite clapping and I’m not keen on that. Children really let you know what they think; you can tell if they’re bored, or full of laughter. Don’t get me wrong, there are adult poetry nights like that too. I’ve learnt a lot from writing for children. I’m doing the Fringe for the second time this year with Spark, the Goblin Wizard but I’m also going to do an adult poetry show.

Dominic Berry performs Spark, the Goblin Wizard at Whitby Hall, Ellesmere Port on May 1, Newcastle City Library on 3 and St Mary’s Flower Park, Prestwich on 18.

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