Welcome to the Show, everyone. (rapturous applause).
I am thrilled to have the talented, enigmatic Barney Ashton-Bullock as our poetry guest this week.
(audience get to their feet and applaud).
Okay, now calm down everyone, let Barney take the weight of his feet. Welcome to the show, Barney. May I say I love those orange Loon pants!
“Yes, Crimplene for Men, the only way to go!”
Gosh Barney, you are the Most!
(Barney glances at his digital watch)
Oh yes, right, I know you want to catch the Brentford Nylons sale before they close, so I’ll press on.
Now, Barney, you come from an impressive musical background. Tell us first about your very successful production of Torsten with the amazing Andy Bell
The Torsten project started in 2012 with my songwriting partner Christopher Frost and the idea was to create a song-cycle of poetic lyrics that the told the story of a polysexual, semi-immortal fictional character who was doomed by their longevity to loving many and losing all!
Having completed the song cycle and having met Andy Bell at the Mojo Magazine awards in 2012, Andy, Chris and I loosely formed a collective to straddle the worlds of pop poetry and theatrical performance. Our first album and theatre show ‘Torsten The Bareback Saint’ opened in 2014 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Two years later, the second instalment, ‘Torsten The Beautiful Libertine’, opened at the Above The Stag Theatre which was followed by our third episode ‘Torsten In Queereteria’ in the Spring of 2019.
Well, Barney, I remember that magical night in 2016 going to Above The Stag and being blown away by Torsten The Libertine. And you’ve worked recently with Marc Almond?
Yes, I’ve worked with Marc Almond, in my day job as managing director of a small boutique record label, SFE Records, distributed through Cherry Red Records through which I publish the work of queer icons, cabaret music and new albums by established artists.
I signed Marc to my label in 2010 for his ‘Live At Wilton’s Music Hall’ album and he was with me for about eight years, but I still produce expanded reissue albums of Marc’s work. I think Marc Almond is an exceptional and singular song stylist and a cult figure who, against the odds, has become somewhat of a national treasure! It has been a great joy for me to have been able to bridge the gap between his major record deals.
So glad I’m seated because I’m swooning here. I also love Wilton’s Music Hall, as well as the talented Marc.
Now, at what point did you feel an affinity with poetry?
My affinity with poetry started at school when in English lessons, maybe once or twice a month, we’d dip into a textbook called ‘Touchstones’ which were sequential volumes of general poetry anthologies to introduce school kids to the form. These were my favourite lessons!
I also was drawn to the poetic language and the spoken word and this manifested in an obsession at an early age, with the very dense, poetic concision’s of speech that I encountered in theatre scripts by Pinter, Jim Cartwright and especially Stephen Berkoff.
The first poetry book I ever shoplifted was W H Auden’s ‘Collected Shorter Poems’ and from there I bounced in more unrefined and radical directions in my tastes, although I was somewhat inspired by the romanticism of Rupert Brooke and very much taken by the poetry of Harold Pinter and its sub-textual nuance.
Which poet influenced you the most?
So, the aforementioned poets and playwrights were those I encountered in my mid teens and by the time I took an A-level in English, my world had been opened fully in terms of an abiding love of poetry by having to study the magical ‘Selected Shorter Poems of Thomas Hardy’ as an A-level text. I identified with the thwarted romanticism and subdued resignation that imbued his sentience.
Hardy’s downbeat stoicism seemed in complete synchronicity with the landscape that, coming from Dorset, I was also inspired by. It would be remiss for me not to mention, in closing, the huge shift in sensibility that occurred on encountering both the work of Derek Jarman and the debut solo album by Morten Harket ‘Wild Seed’.
Oh what great influences, especially the wonderful Derek Jarman. Which contemporary poet do you admire?
I read contemporary poetry vociferously, my current favourites are Sarah Fletcher, Katherine Marys, Aaron Kent, Miggy Angel, Jamie Thrasivoulou, Matthew Walsh, Hannah Lowe, Bobby Parker, Arielle Twist, Richard Scott, Ella Frears and my dear friend, poet-polymath Jeremy Reed. I’m muchly looking forward to Jameson Fitzpatrick’s new book ‘Pricks In The Tapestry’.
Tell us how Soho Poetry Nights came about. You introduced us to a very high calibre of poets there.
Soho Poetry Nights came about when some friends and I graduated, so to speak, from the Faber Academy poetry courses some 3 years back. My good friend, Tania Wade, who works at the legendary artist hangout – the Maison Bertaux Gallery Patisserie in Soho, let me use the basement of her shop for an event at which, on graduating, the Faber Academy poetry classes came together to read their work aloud in front of each other. So, the genesis of Soho Poetry Nights was the Faber Academy graduates coming together with those people whom I had befriended at ‘The Society Club’ in Soho, which had a wonderful Friday night poetry salon run by Chip Martin. Sadly, that venue closed down some six months previously, but it was a coming together of those two groups of associates that formed Soho Poetry Nights.
There was indeed an extremely high calibre of poets. Many published poets performed with us, but it was those that we were able to nurture from within that I am particularly proud to be associated with, people like Sam Quill, Erik Brudvik, Polly McCormack, Jago Kasper Roberts, Lucy Lyrical, Heather Moulson (blush!), Lady Poe, Warren Czapa, Sophie Milner and Michael Dench among many others! We ran the nights from the perspective, not so much of the right for poets to be heard (which is important), but of the right of the audience not to be bored and so maintain an enchantment in and for the possibilities of poetry.
well, it certainly enchanted me, in fact, it changed my life. So, do you think Soho Poets will reform?
Deffo. We will re-form in a different way that may work a little better for what my interests currently are at this stage of my writing career. The plan is to gather around a convivial group of friendly, mutually supportive poets who love and respect their craft and the craft of others. It’s going to become more of an invite led collective as the core of Soho Poetry Nights always was. It’s just going to broaden out a little so that we can work on an ad hoc basis, get together socially and read our work, comment on our work and talk about what new poems and poets we are discovering and reading. Building up such trust is important. To have poet friends around you that you see on a semi-regular basis is inspiring in and of itself because when you’re working at the coalface of poetry. You’re mostly alone and that can be to the detriment of one’s sensibilities and mental health
Tell us about the Slip-Off Festival in September last year. It was very successful, but how much of a gamble was it?
The Slip-Off Festival came about through a very kind invitation from an art gallerist in Cork Street for me to create a spoken word festival as an experiment to see if the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve in Forest Hill, South London, could play host to such an event alongside its better established mini music festivals.
It was a very convivial event; I think we were let down slightly by lack of advertising on behalf of the venue, the threat of a downpour, and perhaps by Londoners in-built resistance to travel to what they assume as ‘the depths of South London’, but the event certainly delivered in spades of what was asked of it and well within budget. A memorable time was had by all; it was certainly a ‘had to be there’ event treasured by all of us who attended and participated.
Well, I certainly treasured it! A great and wonderful feast of talent that I’ll never forget! Now, your lovely new and very personal collection ‘Café Kaput!’ has been well-received. So this is the result of 10 years work?
‘Café Kaput!’ is my recent pamphlet and some of the poems go back to their first drafts over the last 10 years. However, when it came to compiling the work for the pamphlet, it was a very fast process of deciding what poems I wanted to include. Most of them were written alongside the ‘Andy Bell is Torsten’ shows and albums that I collaborated on and, so, the sensibility of those works imbues the collection. I think ‘Café Kaput!’ is very much an amalgam of personal experiences somewhat refracted through fears and phobias about queer loneliness.
How much would you say was relevant to your upbringing and hometown?
I’ve often said that although I graduated from Goldsmiths College back in the mid 90’s and have lived in London ever since, that I’ve never felt as though it was my home, such was the pull of my upbringing, particularly just before I left for London.
Then, I was living in Dorset, in the middle of the countryside and blissfully working in a very small seaside town’s record shop and studying for A-levels in a small local college. I do miss those days, an almost yearning for that stage of my life when it seemed that anything could be possible. It is one of the constant themes of my poetry; the sense of loss is indivisible in my mind from the Dorset landscape, so, in that sense, I often peddle a very personal psycho-geography in my poetry.
A record shop? Bliss!
My personal favourite is ‘Guest House’. What is yours?
My favourite poem in the book signifies one of those moments in which your writing career changes tack somewhat and you feel as though you have progressed in your craft. That poem is ‘Radipole – Out Of It (Deluxe)’ which I started writing in my mind immediately after my parents took me for a day trip to the childhood home of Thomas Hardy in my home county of Dorset. The poem is written about the kind of lads I left behind when I moved to art college in London in the early ’90’s.
It is no secret that some of the greatest poverty in this country exists in pockets of declined seaside resorts. Even in fairly affluent seaside resorts there is, demonstrably, an underclass of unemployed young people who often end up in a downward spiral of addiction and alcoholism. ‘Radipole’ is written with those in mind, disillusioned young men who, perhaps, lacked the life-chances to search for or attain a ‘better life’ and there’s the rub, because those of us who did leave in search of that ‘better life’ are often rendered homesick for having left an oftentimes more accepting, communitarian hometown to create a career in a city that can be, and very often is, as heartless, impersonal and competitive as London.
Well, Barney, you have blown us all away (rapturous applause and standing ovations)
And now, I have to call time. Thank you so much for coming in.
(Barney legs it out the studio very fast )
Well, that’s it for tonight and what a night! Goodnight, we’ll be back for another interview soon! Don’t touch that dial!!
Published by the high-profile Broken Sleep Books and is available on http://www.brokensleepbooks.com, and plain old Amazon. Plus follow Barney on Facebook or Instagram.
Yes! We have some wonderful items in the Basket today. If you look closely in the background of this picture, you will see a certain feline creature having a lie down after bringing the basket over. Well, there were a lot of books there! The basket contains two lots of news –
One is about Luther Poets.
Founded by the late and much missed Bob Sheed, this group, I’m delighted to say, has now started up again. In these significant and cautious times, email is their main force of communication. Later plans will include outdoor meetings and a Zoom presentation.
Once versed(!) in this experience of poetry interaction, other poets will be invited to join. I for one, can’t wait.
The second piece of news (the Poetry Basket is full of it today!), is that The Richmond Shakespeare Society will be presenting an exciting production called Sunshine After Rain where Barbara Lee and Anne Warrington will be performing in a series of monologues and poetry, written by members of the society to celebrate the long summer solstice. Running Order on Friday 3rd July (7.45 – 9.15 approx).
A LIFE PAUSE: WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY BARBARA LEE
THE MAGNA CHARTER: WRITTEN BY MARRIOTT EDGAR AND PERFORMED BY DEREK STRINGER
A DALMATION DISASTER: WRITTEN BY JIM TRIMMER AND PERFORMED BY MURIEL KEECH
AN EXTRACT FROM THE DRESSER: WRITTEN BY RONALD HARWOOD AND PERFORMED BY CHRIS HADDOCK
THIRD CHILD: WRITTEN BY SUSAN CONTE AND PERFORMED BY LEA MASEBO
THE LETTER: WRITTEN BY LYN RANDALL AND PERFORMED BY RACHEL BURNHAM
GATHERING NECTAR: WRITTEN BY BEN FRANCIS AND PERFORMED BY FRANCIS ABBOTT
LONG IN THE TOOTH: WRITTEN BY GENNI TRICKETT AND PERFORMED BY ANNE WARRINGTON
STICKY WICKET: WRITTEN BY FRANCIS ABBOTT AND PERFORMED BY JIM TRIMMER
BEASLEY AND THE PRINCESS MATILDA: WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY KATE CLEELAND
Making Theatre in the Dark. will be available online via Zoom, which is free and simple to access via computer, laptop, phone or tablet. If you would like to watch or listen to any of the performances, please contact Harry Medawar at email@example.com
Welcome to our long awaited interview with the lovely Christine Eales, a strong and passionate lover of haiku and talented poet. (Rapturous applause)
Now, I’ve given the poor woman a barrage of questions, and each one, Christine has answered brilliantly. Now sit back and enjoy the ride!!
(A ripple of anticipation from the audience)
Take a seat, Christine, and welcome to the show. I trust you had a good journey here…
“Well, the jetpack started to sputter a bit over the A4…..”.
Okay, small talk over. Now, how did your passion for haiku begin?
Well, this all came in about an unusual way. I entered a competition for a poem about Spring. Then, in the middle of the third verse I said “I am going to write a haiku.” I wrote one, then three more to finish the poem. I didn’t win but doing that zany thing in the middle of a poem made me look at haiku.
Here are some great places to read modern English haiku free online:
Once you have started to get involved in haiku, it really changes the way you look at everything. Some people would say a Zen way of looking at life evolves. Haiku captures a moment. Sometimes in the real world, and especially the natural world.
butterflies in the wind pushing against time
or the natural and the human world together:
little boy shaking wishes
from a dandelion
Writing haiku, you do not talk about the abstract. You give facts and let the listener or reader respond with all they know about life. So you don’t mention words like love or explain your feelings.
not far away
Mum still walking
in the bluebell woods
So exploring and writing haiku means there is always an antenna working to see if something you are observing at a particular ‘moment’ is just right for a haiku. Also when you read normal poetry when a poet goes on and on about their feelings, you think they are bonkers. Another shock when you go back to normal poetry is the use of rhyme which is not used very often in the English-speaking haiku world.
Writing haiku makes you conscious of the importance of every word. We know this is true of all writing but with the tiny amount of space you have in a haiku each word has to be a nugget of gold. Even adding or taking away, ‘a’ or ‘the’ can be crucial.
the ladybird ladybird
joining up joining up
dots the dots
That’s fascinating, Christine, but how difficult is it to write haiku?
Haiku is brilliant for everyone to write as it uses facts to get the ideas of the haiku across. You don’t need an imagination, just become the observer of the small or large things in life. That you see, hear, smell, touch or taste.
There is this BIG RULE that most of us know before we get into haiku. Haiku are made up of seventeen syllables. Five on the first line, seven on the second, and five on the last line. The famous 5.7.5 layout. This works in Japanese as it is made up of very short sounds. If you say one short sound unit or ‘on’ can be replaced by a syllable, some of which can be very long, and you lose the beautiful lightness of a Japanese haiku. So to get towards that lightness, many English haiku written now are around eleven syllables. Sometimes less, sometimes more, if that’s what the haiku needs.
If you feel very passionate about the 5, 7, 5 syllables then you can do them. They are still a respected form and appear in all the top journals.
So, tell us the rules
A few vital rules are:
You must have the juxtaposition of two images (not necessarily sense of sight, any of the senses or one part of the haiku can be a thought)
with amber and
patchouli weighing each day
boiling sprouts I belong to you
The haiku consists of two parts, the phrase where two lines are saying something and the fragment in one line saying something. They can be in any order, phrase then fragment or fragment or phrase.
shaft of sunlight we eat our meal
dog on the bed in silence
shifts bellowing moon
You must write facts so no verbose phrases about how you feel.
a daisy chain rainy day
around her neck blending my thoughts
her hands with the sherry
Writing facts makes writing haiku accessible to everyone. You do not have to have a flowery mind. Put down those facts and shock people, make them laugh and cry.
There are lots more rules so picking them up bit by bit is maybe a good idea. And just to add to the fun, sometimes rules can be broken.
(Spontaneous applause from an awed audience)
That’s fascinating, Christine, your passion is to be envied, and I, for one, want to get writing Haiku.
Now, share your favourite haiku with us.
My favourite haiku are the one that blend the natural world and the human world:
through a dragonfly’s wing
a sheepdog calls
his master home
Wasn’t that just stunning?!
Now, before we relocate to the Discotheque, I believe you have some useful websites to share with us.