My name is Dom, and I am a freelance poet who sometimes writes verse for children.
It’s been my job now for ten years. I have a really clear memory of being a young lad. Loving rhymes. Not everyone has the accurate recollection of childhood I so vividly do.
These days, I just try to create art I reckon I might have enjoyed whilst growing up.
And that has led to me now writing this- a little blog about how and why I like to make children’s poetry for the stage, to accompany a film of my most recent kids’ poetry video; ‘FIRE’.
What's the difference between "page" and performance?
Many a word has been penned debating the differences between so-called ‘page’ poetry and so-called ‘stage’, ‘performance’ or ‘slam’ poetry.
Those last three terms don’t necessarily mean the same thing to all people, but here I use them all to refer to any poem spoken aloud when there’s an audience of at least one other person.
If you’re new to this distinction - in brief - some say poems performed are inherently ‘not-as-good’ as poems on the page.
Poems on the page can be reread or read at a chosen pace, whilst anything ‘live’ must have at least a level of immediate accessibility which some would accuse of diluting the artistry.
I say... that’s bobbins! Listen more than once! Levels!
I say it is amazing to add drama to verse (big drama, quiet drama, subtle or exuberant), and to read aloud and have no attention or care for theatrical skill is lacking.
Just… if you’re going to say words, try to say them as best you can!!
Considering the Audience
This goes for adult audiences, but even more so for kids.
I loved mum reading to me at bedtime when I was little. Precious memories. She did all the voices! All of them! Unforgettable.
Why would I not want to perform the poems I write, when performing can be so fun. It adds so much to the experience, and is so appreciated by younger poetry lovers?
So, that’s the ‘why’, let’s move on to the ‘how’ - as that is the number one question people always ask me:
"Where do you find the ideas for your poems, Dom?"
Preparation for performance
I see writing and rehearsing as two very separate processes.
I learn my poems. When I learn them, I can work on eye-contact, and better movements of hand and head; reading, I will stumble.
But I cannot learn until the editing is completely finished, or else I get confused between which draft I am attempting to commit to memory!
So, before I can learn, much time is spent at the laptop!
In the video of this latest poem, I speak of finding inspiration, and indeed when faced with a completely empty page, my go-to place is generally "what have I not written before?"
The more poems I write, the more difficult a question that is to answer!
This poem; I wanted a magical battle – a clear 1 on 1. A clear underdog against a mighty power.
I aimed to create a (hopefully) thrilling conflict, where we would route for the heroine! And I wanted it to be succinct!
As usual, the original first draft version was much longer, and got cut back and cut back and sliced and tweaked; like a sculpture with a lump of clay.
The fewer words, the better.
As long as the story still makes sense and is told with a slight flourish. I like rhymes! Rhymes are a good flourish, especially unusual ones. Imaginative, but always making sense!
The performance of FIRE
For the performance – I see the complete words like music.
Which bit is louder? Slower? A key change?
In this poem, I go ‘up’ on the second ‘FIRE’ - trying to bring out the melody of the language, and keep it from sounding monotonous when working with a steady rhythm (as I am in this case).
I’m sharing this, my most recent poem film, as - for all its brevity - it is a poem I have been crafting first the writing and then the rehearsing for ages (literally years) (whilst simultaneously working on many another poem!)
And if I may be so bold – I am proud of this!
As an artist, so often the stuff I try to shape doesn’t end up as I would like.
This is a (sadly all too rare) example of the final product achieving what I’d hoped it might when the idea first struck me.
I think it is fun.
I hope these descriptions have helped shine a light on my personal creative process. Because when we have spent ages making something, we want the world to know!
Working With Audiences
People have heard of ‘rap battles’ and many believe they are all improvised, and make a connection between me speaking verse aloud and that.
So, I often get audiences believing they are praising me when they say ‘how did you make all that up on the spot?!’
I know they mean well, so I don’t shout, ‘Are you joking? These two minutes of rhymes took me months to even get a first draft on the page!!’ Haha!
Well, that’s it from me.
Cheers for reading, and please – keep supporting the arts and the artists!
Blog by Dominic Berry, Poet.