#BrokenAsides with Barney Ashton Bullock


When did you first feel like a writer?

My first excursions into writing were the early verse dramas I wrote and had performed at the now defunct Bournemouth Centre For Community Arts in the late 1980s and, then, slightly later as a lyricist in a synth-pop band called ‘Rupert Drinks Vodka’ during my time at Goldsmiths College. 

What’s the most interesting thing that has inspired your writing and what was the result?

I think had there been no Fad Gadget, I would never have embarked on a life in music where I initially fused a poetic sensibility with pop and, then, eventually emerged as a poet. A more concrete inspiration was Chip Martin’s literary salon that I happened upon by Chance at the closed down ‘Society Club’ in London’s Soho district, attended like crazy and from where a group of us moved forward from into ventures like the Faber Academy, Soho Poetry Nights, Ear Smoke and Celine’s Salon. 

Paint us a picture: what does your writing process look like? Do you write in coffee shops at night or only on an old type-writer?

The writing process is forging narrative from a confetti of ideas that emerge naturally from my everyday life; words and phrases that I either record or type into my phone. The intricate cycle of refinements happen in the glorious, and increasingly few, moments of solitude when I can transfer those ‘field notes’ from my phone onto my desktop computer and lose myself in word sculpting a path through the disparate shape-shiftings of meaning. 

Describe your ideal reader: who would your work speak to?

I was taught by an early mentor, Nöel Grieg, that the more directly you could write about the nature of human pain, the more universal your appeal would be. It was a useful early wisdom that was imparted and I have found that the nature of my audiences are more fluid than I, perhaps, would have envisioned. Though I have written much about the challenges of being a queer outsider, the reality is that the feeling of isolation and rejection is part of all human experience and my, albeit small, readership is a broad church of ages, genders and sexualities. 

Who’s an author you’ve changed your mind about and why?

Jeremy Reed, who I met through Marc Almond, I thought somewhat bonkers and aloof when I first encountered him. But, he’s very much an unsung poet of subversive and emotional depth and of a real weighty intellectual heft. He’s a perennial outsider refracting lived experience through all sorts of heartbreakingly drawn depictions of characters in his poetry. Especially deft is his collaboration with musician Othon and singer Marc Almond when he wrote the poetic libretto for their joint song-cycle called ‘Against Nature’ based on Joris-Karl Huysmans decadent 1884 French novel ‘À Rebours’. Jeremy Reed is a genius and I do so hope that we hear more from him after his recent spate of illness. 

If you could interview any other writer/artist, who would it be and why?

The poet that I find deeply fascinating at the moment is Kathryn Maris. There’s a passion behind the oft conjured disquiets and perceptual displacements within her work. Additionally, there are all kinds and degrees of subversion that are at play which make for compellingly disconcerted reading. 

What motivates you to keep writing?

I think the motivation is simply that I keep on living! While alive, I’m sifting out scraps of phrases and words that inspire me to want to meld them into new meanings and concisions. 

How do you deal with writer’s block or being overwhelmed by the writing process? 

In terms of writer’s block, no I don’t suffer it as I simply shape the thoughts that occur, or the phrases that I encounter and store as part of my everyday life. Those raw ideas, that generative smulch, gets moved into tomes of source material that I revisit, when I have the time and am so compelled, to shape something from. It’s this latter alchemical part of the process that can become overwhelming, if the source material is too plentiful, as it’s quite a time consuming process to extract and refract from the reams of raw material, poems of impact and verve. This gestation period is, in reality, never finished in that it can be endlessly reworked! 

Where would you like to see yourself in a decade? A creative writing teacher? As a best-seller? 

I don’t really have the pain of ambition that I, perhaps, had in my youth. I just hope I’m happy. I am genuinely pleased if anyone finds something of interest in my poetry and I am thankful to have been published on a fair few occasions. I would like to continue with my work in the intersect between pop music and poetry with work of the ilk of that I create with the ‘Andy Bell is Torsten’ and ‘Downes Braide Association’ music poetry crossovers. If I can continue to get poetry books published that would be a great bonus, but I learnt long ago that if you expect nothing then you are never disappointed. 

What has your work taught you about yourself?

That the word ‘poet’, when used as a prescriptive term of self-identity, is a heavy cross to bear. My work in, shall we say, ‘word sculpting’, helps me to piece together greater and, to me, excitingly refracted meanings from the piecemeal and often conflicting fragments of the words and phrases of everyday life. We all sieve the flow of the overwhelm in which we live; I have come to terms with that sifting being what I sometimes do, to make something fleetingly solid, in poetic form, from the broken that I am and that I inhabit.

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