Swimmers Club

10th April 2017


Placeholder image

Municipal Pool

Check which is the shallow end and note the point where you will be out of your depth.


Who: Richard Barrett
Where: Manchester, UK
What: poet

Who are you?

Richard Barrett

Where are you from?

Salford originally; now living in Stretford.

What do you do?

Write; perform; make visual art.

Stock question. Can you tell us a bit about your influences?

Chris Kraus; Ariana Reines; Dennis Cooper; Fence books; Cornerhouse; HOME; The Fall; The Other Room reading series; Frank O’ Hara; Ted Berrigan; Semiotext(e); I Hate the Internet; Eileen Myles; Alfred Hitchcock; Robert Bresson; My Bloody Valentine; Kanye; WIRE magazine; my mates Pete H and Gazza; Pierre Guyotat; Simon Reynolds; Fantagraphics books; Neruda’s Elemental Odes; Tarkovsky; Dodie Bellamy; Sight and Sound magazine . . .

 . . . which, obviously, is just me listing the influences that come immediately to mind rather than saying anything about them.

I don’t know. . . tone is crucial. Work I like could probably, one way or another I’d say, be seen to have a certain tone in common.

Ultimately, stuff goes in; stuff comes out.

Can you tell us a little bit about your most recently published book and whether it does or doesn't differ from the types of things you've written before?

My new book, u make me laugh in a different way, is a deep examination and analysis of the unique pain of being a white, middle-class, middle-aged male in todays hyper-accelerated consumer capitalist society, with specific reference to the existences of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber.

Which is what everything else I’ve ever written before has been about as well, except with different pop-cultural reference points.

What are you currently working on?

A novel in 99 episodes to be called 100 Movies; a notebook which is intended to form the basis of a new series of performances to be held later this year; assorted occasional poems as and when the mood takes me; a book of visual art pieces.

Swimmers Club has a focus on the state of independent culture at the moment (independent coffee shops, presses, record labels, etc). How healthy do you think independent culture is right now?

Regarding independent culture in general I have no idea. Independent coffee shops get on my nerves. I find it usually takes ages to get served and to make things worse you can then be made to feel as though you should be grateful to have been allowed to sit around waiting for your drink for 20 minutes. For coffee it’s Costa, every time, for me – speed, efficiency, and quality coffee in a decent volume.

I like Vinyl Exchange on Oldham Street in Manchester. Think that’s a good place.

Most of my shopping gets done in Stretford mall.

Manchester, for me, these days, is a pretty corporate place, which I have no problem at all with, the amount of money flowing round the place is just testament to the health of the city I think. My wife is from Leeds and, really, at the moment, I think Leeds has a far more exciting independent cultural scene than Manchester; off the top of my head, cool places in Leeds that occur to me are: Wharf Chambers; Outlaws Yacht Club; Colours May Vary and the Hyde Park Picture House. 

As for the independent publishing scene, well, that has genuinely been a source of excitement for me right from my earliest days of being involved in writing. I love it. I love the fact that a piece of writing can cause so much enthusiasm in someone that without any experience at all they can just make up their minds to call themselves an editor and decide to set up a press. And it really is that easy. It’s great. There seems to be new presses springing up all the time. It’s very healthy and exciting. I’ve run presses myself in the past and, who knows, I might even again at some point it the future.

One of the main differences that I think exists between mainstream writing and the more interesting forms of writing is that in the latter sphere non-writing activity such as running presses and organising readings seems to carry nearly as much importance as actual writing does, which I think is just not the case at all in the mainstream world; all of which – the emphasis on community and mutual aid and networks – to me at least, demonstrates that out of and away from the mainstream is, simply, a more supportive and open and just waaaaay nicer place to be. 

What influence, if any, does the city in which you live have on your work?

I love Manchester and often find myself described as a ‘Manchester poet’ but, being honest, I’d say that that description ceased to be accurate a couple of years ago as then, approximately around 2014, I became an American poet. 

Finally, can you swim?

If by ‘swim’ you mean flail about gracelessly for long enough to get from one end of a pool to another then the answer is ‘yes’; yes, I can swim.

Richard Barrett's latest book u make me laugh in a different way is out on Dostoyevsky Wannabe.

Main image above of Richard Barrett (left) taken from The North by North West Poetry Tour held at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester on January 14th 2017.