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Beryl Dov was born and raised in the multiethnic melting pot of Brooklyn, New York. An ordained rabbi, he holds degrees in biology, philosophy, literature and business management. Beryl has traveled extensively to more than 100 countries and has lived and worked in New York, Israel, Montreal, Texas and New Mexico. He first visited Bali in 1973 as a 20-year-old backpacker discovering Indonesia. Beryl now lives in semi-retirement in Ubud where he spends most of his time writing. An Internet sensation, he received 15 million page views in 2014. Beryl is currently working on a Twitter project to launch his 10-word aphorisms to one million people daily.
Who were your ancestors?
I am descended from countless generations of rabbis. My great grandfather, Rabbi Beryl Gulden, who I am named after, was a student of the Chofetz Chaim, arguably the most
renown and influential rabbi of the 20th century. Despite this esteemed provenance, my mom dutifully warned me, “the longer the beard, often the bigger the thief.”
What is your professional background?
I’m entrepreneurial by nature and fortunately have never worked for anyone in my life. I created an adult educational school when I was still a grad student, then a non-profit organization related to the New York Theater. My ‘Bali’ business for the past 25 years has combined my love of art and travel. I’ve exported handicraft, art and furniture from Indonesia, an enterprise that is now in its second generation with my kids running the business day to day. My Indonesian wife Bing has become the main buyer. I still choose and design new products for the family business Free World Gallery.
How many years have you lived in Bali?
I first came to Bali in 1973 and have returned almost every year since. I personally collected masks for 7 years. In 1990, I set up the handicraft business in Bali for one year with my family and sent my first container to New York. In 2009, I moved to Bali full time.
Why did you choose Bali as your place to live and work?
For me it’s the perfect balance between beauty, good-natured people and value for the dollar. If you’re a city kid, staring at a volcano and terraced rice fields from your bedroom is heaven, as I would imagine staring at the Manhattan skyline is paradise for someone born in a village.
How did your interest in poetry start?
Early on it might have been Ogden Nash’s humorous combination of wordplay, rhyme and wit. By the time I did my master’s in theater, it had become Shakespeare. My love of the Bard sealed my utmost desire to come out of the closet and become a poet.
When did you start considering yourself a poet?
I was the ‘class clown’ always sitting at the back of the class making snide remarks, impersonations of teachers and being sent to the principal’s office. They only put up with me because I was also the smartest kid in the class. One day I wrote a comic version of Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’ satirizing all the teachers in my high school. Overnight, a ‘poet was born’ and there was no going back. I’m a more ‘literate’ clown now.
What is distinctive about your work?
I think my Jewish ‘wiseass’ sense of humor permeates my writing, poetry and aphorisms. It’s a quality you also see in Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Billy Crystal, Judd Apatow, Albert Brooks, Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman and Larry David. The list is as endless as the line for visa extensions at imigrasi. Did you know that Jews constitute only about 2% of America’s population, but represent 70% of its working comedians. In America the laughs on us.
Do you make your living solely from your literary and artistic output?
I make nothing financially from my writing or my art. At present writing for me is a work of love. I do not ‘sell’ myself to publishers. My philosophy is “Build it [the audience and the body of work] and they [the publishers and offers] shall come.”
Where did you get your love of sayings?
From reading Ambrose Bierce’s ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’ at age 13. It truly resonated. I found I had Bierce’s aptitude for witty definitions. I’ve since become the master of the ‘10 word’ aphorism, witticism, quote, profundity, one-liner and wordplay on an almost limitless range of topics. The art of the epigram ranges from an Oscar Wilde witty remark, a Chris Rock one-liner or a Dalai Lama sutra. I’ve written 2500 of them in the past 6 months. They’ve already had 14.5 million page views this year, which possibly means I’ve become ‘viral.’
Where do you get your inspiration?
Sometimes I bounce off other people’s ideas and can say, like Einstein, I see further because “I stand on the shoulders of giants.” When my Internet connection is down, my ideas bounce off my own imagination.
What kind of following do you have?
I have the largest following and most poems on ‘Hello Poetry’ where I post daily. Poemhunter, another poetry website, just informed me that they will upload my 8000 poems shortly. Unfortunately, I’m much too busy writing to market myself. I need volunteers for that. Know anybody?
What book is on your bedside table now?
I rarely have the time to read novels these days. I stick mostly to short story collections. I’m reading Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver. I admire his precise, punchy prose.
Can you give us a few tips on how to become an Internet celebrity?
The biggest secret is metatags, keywords and hashtags. This secret is useless unless they are appended to something well written. The other secret is being consistently prolific. Your bid for fame must be recast daily.
Do you have any advice for an aspiring poet?
“Do it for the love, because the money ain’t coming.” By the way, that’s a 10-word aphorism.
What is the best way to contact you?
Copyright © 2015 Bill Dalton