The Poetry of Derek Berry

Claire Bateman Weekly Hubris Banner 2017

“i wear a wedding dress/woven of queen anne’s lace/& wisteria. i slip a garter/of lichen off my thigh./i do not recognize, at first,/the effigy of desire:/burnt moss for hair,/putrid/bog breath./not every incandescence is beacon,/some only a house burning/or body/lit from within.”By Derek Berry

Speculative Friction

By Claire Bateman

Bateman, Poet Derek Berry.

Poet Derek Berry.

Claire Bateman

GREENVILLE South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—November 1, 2021—Aiken, South Carolina poet Derek Berry is the author of the novel Heathens & Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA, 2016), as well as the poetry chapbooks Glitter Husk and Buggery. Their work has recently appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, ANMLY, beestung, Raleigh Review, Pidgeonholes, and elsewhere. Berry currently work/s at a Cold War museum as an education specialist.

martyrdom of saint sebastian
           after Guido Reni

look closer. don’t mistake
tree trunk for Wyoming fencepost,
saint for boy, though in the end,
they died the same—beaten, blued,
bloated & abandoned.
but in this moment, hands bound
over his head, eyes toward heaven,
he’s still alive. shot through
with light. throat exposed
like a shepherd giving
his life over to wolves.

i invite the swamp creature into bed, then set him on fire

kiss me
mouthful of muck,
like a dead cypress.
can you taste the brine of my want?

can two crickets
rubbing thighs
against one another
create music
sharp as night’s end?

i dream the concert
our bodies make.

i wear a wedding dress
woven of queen anne’s lace
& wisteria. i slip a garter
of lichen off my thigh.

i do not recognize, at first,
the effigy of desire:
burnt moss for hair,
bog breath.

not every incandescence is beacon,
some only a house burning
or body
lit from within.

queer the smear

behind the school,
we scrum. we bum rush.
we hum the slur, sing
for brief carnage.
We drum skin red,
become bruisenumb.
we limpwrist
launch the football
above us, spread
arms to catch its descent, then
thrum with violence.
we come
no rules except
blood glitzing
grass, curbside,
parking lot
gravel sparkling
in sunlight like glitter.
there is no other way
boys may touch,
may hold each other
against the dirt.

a boy without a name dances grease high

sweat-hijacked. holyspirit-hamstrung
between what his tongue
knows of skin’s salt
& his hands
know of my throat’s
find me feast of forgotten pork rinds
spilled on the floorboard of his daddy’s truck.
but i am not here,
only in some other body unfamiliar
with however his breath smells.
instead, curled around
the question mark of what might have been,
sugar hungry & carnival starved,
i sink into the river, stone weighted,
bob for adam apples, bite whatever
soft flesh lives below the water’s surface.

Note: These poems were originally published in Buggery, winner of the BOOM Chapbook Prize from Bateau Press.

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About Claire Bateman

Claire Bateman’s books include Scape (New Issues Poetry & Prose); Locals (Serving House Books), The Bicycle Slow Race (Wesleyan University Press), Friction (Eighth Mountain Poetry Prize), At The Funeral Of The Ether (Ninety-Six Press, Furman University), Clumsy (New Issues Poetry & Prose), Leap (New Issues), and Coronolgy (Etruscan Press). She has been awarded Individual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Surdna Foundation, as well as two Pushcart Prizes and the New Millennium Writings 40th Anniversary Poetry Prize. She has taught at Clemson University, the Greenville Fine Arts Center, and various workshops and conferences such as Bread Loaf and Mount Holyoke. She lives in Greenville, South Carolina. (Please see Bateman’s Author’s Page for links to all her publications.)
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5 Responses to The Poetry of Derek Berry

  1. Will says:

    oh, yes, Claire!

    Derek is among my treasure chest of poets I regularly turn to … or who surprisingly throw themselves into my pathway to make sure I stumble and pause to regain my legs as I move along – a poet better than we think.

    thank you!

  2. Anita Sullivan says:

    Wow! I so appreciate having Derek’s work brought to my attention!

  3. Claire J Bateman says:

    Thank you, Will!!!

    All best,


  4. Brett Busang says:

    Dear Claire:

    Your advocacy is well-taken. This young man’s voice functions as the rhetoric of desire, through which it moves in stealth and joy. In images that are rudely gorgeous, he reminds us that our taboos strangle us while severing potential
    ways-in. He understands what it is to lose, but is undeterred in his pursuit of victory – no matter whether that victory is seen, by way too many, as ignoble.

    A poem might be beautiful without being courageous, yet courage makes it resonate against the bleak little circles that are arranged for us beforehand, and which it is our duty to disarrange.

    Thanks for sharing it.

  5. claire bateman says:

    Brett! Oh, thank you. Passing this and all the other comments along to Derek.

    With appreciation,