Richard Barrett – Love Life! (Stranger Press, 2016)
‘Love Life!’ follows the equally brilliant ‘Hugz’, which cited Dosteovsky alongside The Fall and Pavement. In this new volume, Richard Barrett also blends a keen understanding of the blinding haze of pop culture with what that culture buffers, the often exhausting, unbearable conditions of life in the 2010s.
A perfect example of this is the title of Barrett’s poem ‘Unkanye’, which mirrors the word ‘uncanny’ or ‘unhomely.’ What could be unhomelier than the nuclear half life afterimage of Kanye West to the average, passive consumer of Kanye, the shuffling people, myself included, who fart and admit they do, who switch the alarm off and have another half hour, who do not have a current gymnasium membership. What could be more attractive, but also utterly unattainable than Kanye? Here lies a psychological friction that is more perverse than perversity itself. Barrett has a natural feeling for these frictions.
The thing about contemporary R’n’B, the Flight of the Conchords asserted, is that it is completely sincere, which is intrinsically funny, in an era where sincerity has been partially defused. Barrett understands and explores all of this, but expands his consciousness as far as he can into the vast uranium affect cloud that is Kanye West. Martin Amis once described a cornflakes packet, in London Fields, as an ‘imminently dawning reality’. Similarly, Barrett has a philosophical eye and ear for contemporary mirages: ‘The true meaning of Christmas is Kanye West / Who has left his materiality behind and entered the realm of ideas / Every single positive thought in the universe is Kanye.’
Kanye is the internet and ‘substitutes his brain for the internet when the internet is recharging.’ Kanye’s kiss is the greatest kiss on earth, as it is in heaven, but ‘Kanye kissing Kanye’ is the origin of all creation, the unmoved mover, the heat of the big bang at all our backs, transformed into a love so big that it cannot be gotten over, stepped around or ducked underneath.
Barrett is the phenomenologist of Samsung user gripe forums, the catcher of thoughts so banal they appear to not even happen. But this stuff is the dark matter of all our lives, the impossible to fathom glue that ensures the social world does not simply fall apart like badly assembled IKEA furniture. Barrett is the particle collider that speeds them up and crash tests them until they confess their real function in a larger universe. Barrett knows that the rarer particles are to be found in Burnley, or Warrington, and that once smashed into their constitutive nano-chatter, they will provide what Henri Lefebvre called, enigmatically, ‘Moments’.
But this is just one aspect of his work. Do not misread me and think there is something flippant and postmodern going on here. Barrett’s poem on The Death of Love is more sincere than sincerity itself. Richard Barrett is an author and speaker, I have read his poems and heard him read them. He is a fine reader of them. He inhabits himself fully and reads from that place, he is not trying to impress or persuade, to create novelty or kudos.
He is not the internationally recognised leader on the evolution of human values in business and society. He is not the creator of cultural transformation tools which have been used to support more than 6,000 organisations on their transformational journeys. He has not trained more than 5,000 change agents, nor is he the author of An Exploration of the Influence of Ego-Soul Dynamics, The Metrics of Human Consciousness, or Liberating the Corporate Soul.
Much more impressive than all of this, he is One of the Best Poets Working in Manchester Today.