Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 29 November 2020

'The Great Realisation': Why this British writer's pandemic poem caught the eye of Jake Gyllenhaal

Tomos Roberts hopes to turn the viral poem into a children's book, with the film star's help

Tomos Roberts recites 'The Great Realisation' poem, which has since gone viral, on his YouTube channel. YouTube
Tomos Roberts recites 'The Great Realisation' poem, which has since gone viral, on his YouTube channel. YouTube

When Tomos Roberts, a spoken word poet from London, wrote The Great Realisation and posted it in video form on social media, he didn't think it would go viral.

Nor did he imagine American actor Jake Gyllenhaal would approach him to potentially turn the poem into a book.

The work, which reimagines our post-pandemic world, is written in the form of a bed-time story that is being read to a child. Filmed at home with his younger brother and sister, the video has been viewed more than 18 million times across YouTube, Facebook and Instagram since it was posted last week.

The response has been overwhelming for the 26-year-old poet and filmmaker.

"I think the reason why millions of people are prepared to watch a video on Facebook or on YouTube, and react to it and engage with it, is because people are searching for some idea of what they could ... not be happy about now, but look forward to in the future," Roberts tells The National.

"I was quite shocked and surprised when I had a message on Instagram from Jake Gyllenhaal, who wanted to help me turn it into a children's book, so we're discussing that at the moment."

Roberts, who posts online under the moniker Probably Tom Foolery, hopes that the poem could exist in many different languages.

I was trying to think of any good that I could even fictitiously create from this situation

Tomos Roberts

A filmmaker by trade, Roberts's poetry has always been a hobby. He created his YouTube channel about two years ago, but only really started focusing on it about a month ago, when he went into self-isolation and his other film projects had to be put on hold.

"A few friends suggested: 'Why don't you bring the channel back to life?'," he says. "I wanted to use it as a way to express ideas I was having. I didn't have any expectation that so many people would react to it in this way."

The idea behind the poem was to stir up some hope amidst the chaos.

"I was trying to think of any good that I could even fictitiously create from this situation. It wasn't easy, but I tried to imagine that in the future, we looked at this as a dark moment where we made good decisions," he says.

British poet Tomos Roberts writes poetry under the fictitious character called Probably Tom Foolery. Tomos Roberts
British poet Tomos Roberts writes poetry under the name Probably Tom Foolery. Tomos Roberts

"I truly believe that people really need something to be hopeful about, otherwise there's a strong probability that people will start to feel scared, anxious, lonely and depressed, and that's not a good place to be in if you want to overcome this bad situation."

Ironically, Roberts has just finished the script for a feature film called Blaggers, a story about a poet who becomes famous overnight.

"I think the world is showing me it has a sense of humour," he jokes. "I think I have a much better insight of what the character should be feeling now than I did two months ago."

While Roberts plans to continue posting poems on his channel, he hopes that this attention can also open doors for his film work as well. However, in the meantime, he will continue to write poems. His next Tom Foolery piece, called A Tale of Two Mindsets about the constant battle between optimism and pessimism, is expected to be out next.

Until then, it is likely that Roberts will maintain his solid sense of perspective. "It's not millions of people who are interested in me, but millions of people interested in the idea that even in an incredibly bad situation, if we work hard enough, we can try and find a way to use it for good," he says.

"My mum, my dad and my big sister all are working in the hospital, saving people's lives, and I am a poet who stays at home and thinks of rhyming couplets, records them and posts them online."

Updated: May 5, 2020 03:45 PM

Editor's Picks
THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
Sign up to our daily email