Sunday, October 26, 2014

Author Interview: Adriano Bulla: Poet, Novelist, Writer and Scholar: Be Proud To Be Different

Poet, novelist, writer and scholar, Adriano Bulla, known as Ade, has lived an unconventional life ever since he can remember, and this is clearly reflected in his writing. Never tired to explore and develop new forms, always searching to blur and push the boundaries of genres and conventions, not only between genres and styles, but between poetry and prose, and according to a study on his novel, The Road to London, in Lit Art Magazine, between literature and visual art as well. Born in Italy but by adoption a Londoner, he is here now to talk to us about his writing, his life, literature and his commitment to equality and human rights.

Your real name and pen name?

I use my real name. However, before publishing The Road to London, both Glastonbury Publishing/Mirador and myself had the half-idea of publishing her (the novel is female) under a pen name, given its sensitive, at times very personal content. Whether I also write under one or more pen names...well, that will remain a mystery for posterity to sort out!

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood

One in particular, though I am not sure it is a memory, or a reconstruction, meaning something I seem to remember, but in reality I saw in a family film. I’m not sure because my very first memory, when I was less than one year old, is an out-of-body experience, and I recall a few from my childhood. Anyway, this memory, which I have from both an internal and an external perspective, was myself and my family, including my Grandmother (ultra centenary real Lady I love with all my heart) and my Grandfather (R.I.P.) walked in a shadowy Mediterranean pine forest near a wonderful Italian city, the resting place of the great Dante, Ravenna, and went to see a tiny little zoo inside it; it had peacocks, pheasants, some goats, nothing huge, but it was as if we were one soul, my family and I and almost reaching out to the animals and the trees. It’s just a beautiful feeling I have from that day.

About your education?

I have a very classical secondary education; Latin, Literature, Art, Philosophy, History, Physics etc... I then went to university both in Italy, where I lost myself in the labyrinth of Classical and Medieval Literature, Philology and languages, then studied English Literature in the UK, as well as Linguistics and a few other things... The thing is that despite being in formal education till I was twenty-eight full time, returning to it for another post-graduate year afterwards, as well as having a year of part-time education, all I have studied in these formal settings is only the grounding of my education, the beginning... to mistranslate Eduardo De Filippo, ‘Education never ends.’

What career did you plan during your education days?

May I twist your question a bit to give a piece of modest advice to young people who may be reading this? When I was a child (about six) in Italy, there was a customary question from parents, friends and Teachers: ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ Parents and Teachers, please think about the huge, in my opinion positive, impact this had on me and may have on the children you look after; it set me on a course of discovery of who I wanted to be in my future, sparked in me aspirations, invited me to plan my future... At six, I wanted to be a builder (because I could then build my own house), by the age of fourteen, I wanted to be a scientist, because I loved Einstein and wanted one day to be part of the first contact with an alien civilisation, by sixteen, I had a plan A, B and C: plan A was to become a pop/rock singer (I did record songs on the way, and sang in concerts, but that world closes when you are in your twenties...think about plan B and C, dear aspiring rap stars and footballers... you have a short window to achieve it, and if you don’t?) Plan B was to become a writer, because I love reading, I love Literature, I love Art, and some of my greatest idols are writers, and the first door opened to me in 2005, with my very first publication; now I am a full-time writer. Plan C, the easiest, most achievable one, was to become a Teacher, with the twist that I wanted to teach English in England, despite being Italian... That was a bit to give back to one of my greatest idols, James Joyce, the gift he gave Italy, when he became a Teacher in Trieste. My gift back to the UK for changing my life. I started that in 2008, and have had a glorious time as a Teacher and Lecturer in London... The moral is, young people, keep a few doors open... some may shut, but you’ll always have the next one ready... I still need to become a pop/rock star... who knows?

What languages you can speak and write?

Being a Classicist, we ‘read’ languages, as our languages are seldom spoken... Ancient languages? Latin, Ancient Greek, Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, langue d’oc et langue d’oil, any language from Medieval Latin into Modern Italian via Medieval Italian. I also dabbled a tiny bit in Sanskrit, and read The Book of the Dead in the original, with translation underneath though, which I think jeopardised my proper learning of hieroglyphs, but I have almost forgotten everything of the last two. Modern Languages, English and Italian, Spanish to a decent level (I went to an experimental primary school where we learnt three languages, but I haven’t spoken Spanish in ages), I can read and understand French easily, but don’t ask me to speak it, I even worked as a translator from French into Italian, I understand written Portuguese, a tad of German, only written... I think I use about nine or so languages in my poetic opus.

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?

The Human Spirit and how it (it’s more of a ‘he’ collectively at the moment, though I really wish it were more of a ‘she’, but I sense it is getting slowly more in touch with its feminine side) interacts with the Spirit of the Universe.

What hurts you most in this world?

Any form of injustice, whether it be that some people are starving and others are billionaires and still want more (often, but not always at the expense of poorer people), or that some don’t have the same opportunities as others. To talk about what I see every day and hurts me is homeless people (I know there are people who are even worse off, but I am influenced by what I experience personally a lot, charity begins at home, but doesn’t stop there). I see so many here in London, and the thing that really upsets me is how some people totally ignore them, as if they didn’t exist... do they think they enjoy asking for money in the street? The other thing is judgmentalism: it’s at the root of all discrimination and it’s an insult to God (whatever is your definition of divinity, I don’t care, or, if you are still an atheist, an insult to morals): we are not judges, we are not in this world to judge others, we have no right to, that’s the job of God (or justice); we are here to try to understand and strive to love.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?

It’s fighting the evil inside me... I think I was born with quite a lot of evil in me, and I spent most of my life trying to get rid of it. I have not overcome it; I only know that even if I can’t see it at any given moment, a bit may still be there, or may come back; the main thing I have learnt I must do is never to lower the guard, and that’s a very difficult thing to do. I still fail in that sometimes.

If you had to live a day of your life as a living or dead personality, who would it be and why?

If I have to choose one, maybe Plato, or Da Vinci... I just would love to know how it feels to have the whole of human knowledge till now and beyond in your own mind... It’s a bit of a Faustian thought, but I, like Faust, am a Renaissance man deep inside.

What is your favorite genre and why?

Here is a lovely video from Ade explaining his views on favorite genre...

When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?

You do make me reminisce... I started writing when I still didn’t know the alphabet... I must have been three; I remember I used to hide under the bed and pretend to write sentences... they were just squiggly lines... then, the first time I decided to write a novel (not a story for homework), it was in English; I must have been about eight, and I realised my English was not good enough (of course) to write a full novel, but I remember how it started... it could have been an alternative start to The Road to London: ‘There is a boy and he is on the street...’ How strange, looking back, to think that it took me about thirty years to finish that original novel... I first accomplished a text with a poem, in Italian, ‘Bordighera’. I know for sure I was eleven; it was about the anguish of being in a beautiful sea town on the Italian Riviera, but away from my parents. I gave it to my Italian Teacher instead of an essay; she loved it, and asked me if I had more as she had a friend who would like to publish my work. I didn’t have any others, so I wrote a few without inspiration; then I never passed them on to her: I was ashamed of their quality. I then started writing poetry in English, and some of my earliest poems have now been published several times. I was writing in English, though living in Italy, because I was hiding myself from the world around me: I didn’t want other people to understand them; they were my way of dealing with my atrocious angst, with my insecurity about myself, in such a hermetic and coded way, that I wanted, and I think I managed, in a way, my poems to be unreadable, and more difficult than The Waste Land: Eliot was talking about the Human condition; I was talking about mine! The first series of poems I wrote, when I was fifteen, was Ybo’; I literally invented my own English in them; the spelling, the grammar, the Philology do not exist anywhere else. With Heav’n from Hell, I reached the height of hermeticism. I know that in a short passage in the poem ‘Orphalese’, about ten lines in hendecasyllables, I included two hundred and forty-four quotations... That was mad, so, I opened up to myself and the world with my Flicker series.

The big difference between my poetry up to the flickers and my prose is, to go back to why I write, the purpose: I wrote The Road to London to share my experience, and not just mine, as, even if I thought at first the novel was loosely based on my life, I then realised it was about my Best Friend, Stephane, to whom she is dedicated; I only realised it after he died, but it all suddenly made sense. It made sense why the novel came to me so suddenly, while dancing with him, and how I started reciting the words to him; it made sense how he seemed to understand every nuance of it as I kept reciting every word as it kept coming to me, a chapter every Friday night while clubbing; it made sense because she describes his, not my, version of the universe. I didn’t know then, but my Muse, was listening to every word as I ‘wrote’ the novel. Steph was speaking to me from the future, from beyond the grave. Believe me; I have tears coming down my cheeks right now, just thinking about it. The Road to London is Steph saying to the world that we ‘different’ people, we weirdoes, we scum of the Earth have a beauty inside that shines like the Sun in the sky, just get rid of your blinkers, and look for goodness’ sake!

And if you can’t face the sun, at least look at his light on the skin of the Moon.

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?

I am so lucky with publishing; for me it’s more a matter of holding publishers back or writing enough material. I don’t write much, you see; I only write when there’s like a wave of energy that literally forces me, physically, almost violently, to write. I am particularly lucky I am with Glastonbury Publishing/Mirador, not a mere ‘business’, but really positive, open minded, sunny people who give me such good vibes it’s like being at a rave party.

The shortest synopsis of The Road to London is ‘A (gay, if it still really matters) boy’s quest to find who he is and for the freedom to love.’
Ready to jump out of a window, the boy remembers his life, how his games as a child shaped his identity and his sexuality, how his formative years were pure angst, how he had to hide from the looks, the words, the punches of his peers, and build a world for himself, a world of dreams, then alcohol, drugs, hallucinations till, maybe, if the reader wants... the boy will not fall from the window, but fly to London, where he can finally live the story in the ‘letters’ to My Dear, coming from his future in a gay club in London, and finally be proud to be different.
A picture of the manuscript, and yes, I still write by hand and with a fountain pen: I find no rhythm with a keyboard, but writing by like playing the violin.

What are your forthcoming writings?

What I am working on at the moment is a collection of short poems and stories for a book whose full copyrights will go to a very worthy Charity,, who provide clean water to communities who, ironically, in a world that calls itself ‘modern, advanced...civilised’ still don’t have access to it... I think the title may be Words for Water. I am actively seeking contributions from other writers for it; so if you have written a beautiful story, poem, script and are reading this, famous or not, please get in touch on Goodreads.
I am also ‘pottering with poetry’ again; being deep inside a poet, I need to go back to my cradle every now and then... I’m writing a collection Queer Poems, where ‘queer’ doesn’t just mean LGBT, but any victim of bigotry and discrimination... Still, very much indebted to Eliot, as I am walking down the structural and stylistic road he opened with his ‘Preludes’.
The next prose book, I feel, but this is not much more than a hunch, will be of short stories. I’d never written short stories before Tales for the Free Mind and Open Heart, and I found I love how you can play with different structures and genres in such a short space. When I say short... I talk a lot, but only write words if they are absolutely essential; I don’t dilute up to the word count... so far these stories are more ‘the haikus of prose’ around one to two thousand words, but that’s not a rule. As short as possible.

What are your future plans?

Plans... Aspirations? I can’t plan because I never know if I will ever again have the inspiration to write... Well, the basic concept for a novel has come to me today, so that may be after the short stories... It won’t be a sequel to The Road to London, sorry, that’s not me... I don’t do encores; it’s either innovative or I don’t write it. I see no point in not exploring new styles and structures. The big dream... to write the epic poem of the Twenty-first Century. Wish me good luck.

What four top most things you take care of while writing a book?

Sincerity, meaning that the book must come from real feelings, not just be written to make some money. A book has to give to the reader... Style, there are only two types of books, well-written ones and badly written ones, to quote Wilde; without style, there is no enjoyment for the reader. Structure, this includes characters, plot and setting; the books I write are my books, not the copy of someone else’s; they may take lessons and inspiration from other writers and books, but they don’t copy; they develop, they change what I have learnt, and go down new paths. Personally, the themes are important; it is linked to the first, but exploring a theme in a yet unseen direction is another essential feature for me.

How much real life goes into fiction writing?

It’s hard for me to make a clear distinction. We can’t write reality as it is; even the fact that we have to choose words makes that impossible. On the other hand, in my personal case, I can’t write about something I have not experienced first-hand. I would say one hundred percent real and one hundred percent fictional. Blame my skipping Maths lessons, but that’s how it works for me. It’s where the real becomes fictional, that hazy, uncertain and beautiful area in between that really gets my creative juices going.

Is high level of imagination important to have for an Author?

I can’t speak for everybody, but for myself, yes. I must say that I understand imagination as Coleridge did, inclusive of, not opposed to, reason. Imagination is the holonym, it encompasses reason, and that, despite the fact that I suppose most people believe the opposite, or that they are mutually exclusive (we live in a masculine society, what do you expect?), seems so obvious to me. We can’t even think without imagining the words we use to think, or their signified, so how could we possibly reason?

Your dream destination on Earth?

The heart of every human being.

What is the current book you are reading?

I am reading Willy, by Robert Dunbar and I am loving it! I had worked out that man has a wonderful way with words, is super intelligent, experimental, creative, deep from the very first few words. I read a few pages to taste it a couple of months ago, then had to do other things, but have been waiting to start it ever since. I’ve just started it, but the way it explores what one could call a ‘learning disability’ from the very depth of the protagonist’s brain and how he does it through literally building the language of the character, which of course, we know, language is thought, and at the same time conveys an atmosphere that is borderline gothic, I’d say Dickensian, in this ‘school’ as the boy calls it...superb!

Your favorite celebrity and why?

Madonna, even if celebrity is a bit of an understatement. Why? I could go on for days, but I’ll give you three key reasons. I wouldn’t be the person I am without her, possibly, I wouldn’t be in this world now (selfish reason). She invented modern music: the world of pop is doing the music she invented in nineteen-ninety-eight, and no one has yet equalled Ray of Light (musical reason). She has single-handedly done more against discrimination than any other person in living memory, whether it be women’s rights, campaigns against wars, LGBT rights, ageism, you name it (cosmic reason). I rest my case.

Some quickies: Sun or Moon, Laughter or Smile, Morning or Evening, Coffee or Tea, Mountain or Sea, Long Drive or Short Drive, Silence or Conversation, Water or Fire, Air or Earth, Mars or Jupiter, Tulip or Rose, Red or Blue, Left or Right, Glance or Stare

Moon, smile, evening, tea, sea, long drive, silence, water, air, Jupiter, rose, blue, left (did you need to ask?), glance. I know you’ll psychoanalyse me now... too late.. I’ve sent many a psychiatrist crazy already...

The last line of your autobiography would be…

Can I say what I want on my tombstone instead? Be right back!

Twitter handle:@Bulla_Adriano
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