Slam Poet Christmas Message: Sam Berkson
In a special series for Huffington Post UK Culture, some of the country's finest performance poets have recorded exclusive end of year messages. You can read a copy of Sam's poem below.
What's the title of the poem? The Thaw
How long have you been performing poety?
What is your poem about?
The cold winter of 2009/10. A poet called Alan Wolfson pointed out one night that the Evening Standard ran a headline about the upcoming cold snap 'Up to 30 000 people may die!'. I read later in Private Eye that the number of confirmed deaths was 26 or something. So in a way they were right... it seemed that the mainstream news only has one approach to all events - capitalised outrage - and yet the real news, stories like financial exploitation, the impact of war and unjust imprisonment are pushed to the margins. Public figures were blaming each other for trains not running, money lost to the economy... but strangely most people, when you ask them, actually quite like snow and they liked having a day off from work.
Who is your favourite poet, and poem?
Christopher Logue. He died this year. His poem Urbanal says everything I've ever wanted to say about everything. Performing now I like Jean 'Binta' Breeze, Salena Godden, Dizraeli, Kate Tempest, curious. I love the lyrics of Roots Manuva, particularly his first album - Motion 5000 is something quite special.
Where can we see you perform?
I host the Hackney branch of Hammer and Tongue at The Victoria in Dalston on the first Tuesday of every month. Plus I do a lot of gigs around and about - London mainly but other places too. I'm going to Canada in February.
What will you be doing this Christmas?
I'll be with my girlfriend's family in Sheffield. I'm looking forward to it.
2010 came, and with it, an inch or snow of snow:
A nightfall flurry muffled the street sound
And glittered in the street light;
We came home, half-drunk
And splattered from the snow-fight.
The next day, engines choked and spluttered,
Rubber slipped on the ice and sleet,
Commuter trains were cancelled,
And we worked a four day week.
Armed up with snowballs, rascals were king of the castle
On the railway bridge façade,
I watched a mother and a son
Make a snowman in the graveyard.
We walked across parks
Without the marks of park paths;
Took the road to avoid the pavements,
And annoyed the humbled cars.
We made strangers laugh
When we fell on our arse,
A few old people died in badly-heated flats,
And I felt a bit bad, but, you know, old people,
They tend to do that.
All around and elsewhere it was business as usual.
A bank that the public owned declined to declare its bonuses to the public,
Immigrants were taken into privatised incarceration,
Locked up and sent back home on the same damn plane they came on,
Back to that dark nation where gangs of 18 year old foreign boys
Were given new hunting equipment
To seek out the minds of ambitious mafia
And the hearts of harmless citizens.
The boys in fluro pressed their boot prints to the pavement,
We learned of 'adverse weather conditions'
And the sales of 'flu medicines.
Now, as always, the thaw comes and order is restored:
But as we watch the water float on parks
And swirl down drains,
Let's hope something of the playfulness
And mis-function still remains.