As we quickly approach National Poetry Month, I have begun to think about poetry and all of its different forms. A form that I keep coming back to is the prose poem and how it has really begun to blur the line between the poem and flash fiction. No one knows this distinction quite as well as J. Bradley. He is the author of the new collection of poems, Dodging Traffic which was released by Ampersand Books last October. Bradley writes from the heart, but it is a heart filled with booze and a little rage.
J. Bradley will be reading at Quimby’s on April 5th and I thought it was the perfect time to ask him a few questions about the book and his tour.
Chicago Subtext (CS): What can you tell the average Chicago reader about Dodging Traffic?
J. Bradley (JB): Dodging Traffic is a coming-of-age love story fueled by failure, Jameson, and an innocence that never quite went away. I dedicated it to my wife because she has had such an influence on me and my writing and a good deal of the poems in the collection are about her and our relationship.
CS: In her glowing review of your collection Theresa Houle aluded to the bluring of the lines between Poetry and Flash Fiction. Do you feel there is still a defined difference between the two genres?
JB: Longer poems based on my experience in the poetry slam setting blur the line between flash and poetry because longer poems tend to rely on storytelling elements to convey their message. I think there’s still a defined difference because you can get away with certain things in flash that you can’t get away with in poetry and vice versa.
CS: You founded the Broken Speech Poetry Slam. Is there a difference in your style when reading on this book tour compared to reading at Broken Speech?
JB: The difference between my style at Broken Speech and at a feature is a) I get to perform a wider variety of work and b) I get to engage the audience for longer than three minutes. I’ll thrown in shorter poems and some flash fiction in my recent sets and its gotten a really good response. I’m into live concerts and I love a good show and I take that mentality when I perform my work, a literary rock show but without the pyro and the binge drinking during. I live to do really good shows.
CS: Speaking of Book Tour, why Chicago and why Quimby’s?
JB: I was in Chicago for the 2003 National Poetry Slam as a member of Team Orlando and the Nerd Slam that year was hosted by Shappy at Quimby’s and I fell in love with Quimby’s. It was the perfect place to do poems about video games, comic books, and Star Trek. I’ve also watched how the poetry scene in Chicago has grown over the last few years, especially The Encyclopedia Show, and that’s made me love the city even more. My impression is that there is so much talent in the city but they also like to have fun and don’t take themselves too seriously. Quimby’s, for me, is almost like a welcome back show and I’m glad they’re letting me read there.
CS: You recently became the interview editor for Pank Magazine? How did you become involved with them and what will you be doing?
JB: I first got with PANK when they published my epic poem, “How Esmeralda Estrus Got Her Revenge”. There was a call for copy editors to work with PANK and I wasn’t their first choice. When their first choice dropped, Roxane Gay (co-editor of PANK) asked me if I was still interested in copy editing. One of the perks of working with PANK was I got to interview people every so often so I wrote all of the interview questions for the contributors in the November issue and I had a blast doing it. At the time, the copy editing and the interviewing rotated among copy editors. Eventually, Roxane had me just interview the contributors of a particular issue and not copy editor. With all of the good feedback PANK got about the interviews from the contributors, Roxane asked me if I would be interested in doing all of the contributor interviews and additional interviews I thought of doing for PANK’s blog for each month’s online issue. Once I said yes, I was knighted as Interview Editor. I really love what I do. I get to read some of the best writing in the country and ask writers unconventional questions.