Monday May 20

Bradley-Poetry J. Bradley is the author of Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009), The Serial Rapist Sitting Behind You is a Robot (Safety Third Enterprises, 2010), and My Hands Are As Thick As Dreams (Patasola Press, 2011). He is the Interviews Editor of PANK Magazine and lives at

J. Bradley Interview, with Nicelle Davis
Your poetry verges on having the tone of a bad pick-up line. I often read expecting to be mildly amused by a punch line or bad pun, only to be walloped by an unexpected smack of vulnerability and emotion. How did you develop this way of writing? Who inspires / influences your work?
I developed the style through a lot of trial and error. When I was younger, I was an emotard and so I wrote things that a sensitive emotard might write such as this:
"one of your kisses
would be enough
to stop the last day of summer
from escaping my ribcage.
one of your kisses
would be enough
to change the color of my language.
one of your kisses
would be enough."
And it was to show that I was sensitive and that because I was sensitive that you should fall for me. I grew up, got real, got unafraid of the ugly in myself and it tempered my style quite a bit.
Despite everything, I am a romantic. Derrick Brown was a big influence starting out, along with Jeffery McDaniel.

Your background is in spoken word poetry, how does speaking a poem help with the writing process?
Poetry was always meant to be sound based. Speaking helps with the tone of the poem, the word choice, the line breaks. I often read my poems aloud as I write them to get them just right.
What new poetry projects are you working on?
I have an MS I'm trying to sell called We Will Live Like Our Ghosts Will Live. It's a hybrid of flash fiction and poetry. I hope someone gives it a home. Like Dodging Traffic, it's a time capsule of a tough year.

What is the worst pick-up line you’ve ever heard? How would you save it with poetry?
The worst pick-up line I've ever heard is one I invented: "Hey baby, wanna get on this dick like it's Schindler's List?” I used that line in a poem of mine called "Marching Bands of Manhattan" in this stanza.
"I invent pick up lines to ward off arms
like garlic and broken glass. I grew a beard
to soften the reaction after she hears
“hey baby, wanna get on this dick
like it's Schindler's List?”

For the person who is new to writing poetry, what advice would you give them about making language “fresh” and “surprising?”
Live a little. Live a lot. Step away from the open mic. Shut the fuck up and write.
The Munition of Goodbye

Son, when kissing her
felt like holding a knife
with your teeth, do not ask
for a refund of the blood
you’ve already swallowed.

When your mother hisses
the lit fuse of her name,
do not smother it with
“you don’t understand”
shell games.

When you awake from a night
of heaving clogged syllables,
you will find this under your pillow:
“love should never be something
you have to survive.”

The Last Poem I Will Ever Write To You

I could not write anything
with backbone
while you lent it to other men
to choke you with.

Hollywood Summer

I’m learning how to love
while keeping my prescribed
wine glasses at home.

Though 70% of our bodies
are water, I will not quantify
how into you I am with lakes
and rivers; here, the oceans
are barren.

I’m glad you do not ask
where are all the love poems;
you are gossip I share
with mirrors alone.