5 Questions with J. Bradley


Jesse Bradley hails from Orlando, FL. He’s been involved with some of the coolest literary mags and publishers in the country such as Pank and YesYes books (who has published his newest collection of poems, The Bones of Us).

I’ve gotten a chance to take a sneak peak at The Bones of Us, which features some amazing artwork by Adam Scott Mazer. It takes poetry and melds it with the graphic art form. What’s left is a disruptive meditation on the end of a relationship between two people.  Jesse has written poems that seem to fall naturally into this form, whether they are stuffed into comic book narration boxes or draped across a body. I really appreciate what he’s done here as what is presented in this collection serves to expand upon any notions of what a poem can become.


by Jason Bayani


I’ll admit I was a little skeptical at first when you told me that your new book, “The Bones of Us”, would meld sequential art with poetry. I was really unsure this could work but by the time I got to the last page I did feel a sense of completeness and that the poems had lead me to a satisfying end. “Are We the Dining Dead” stands out to me in particular as something that sits in both worlds completely, and throughout the book I felt that each piece found its own way to approach being both a poem and piece of sequential art. Was melding these two mediums something that you knew going in, or did this come as a revelation during the process? Also, how did it affect the way you wrote the poems since the layout of the words on the page was part of the art?

The idea of making The Bones of Us into a graphic poetry collection came from YesYes Books publisher KMA Sullivan when she read the manuscript in its sixth or seventh revision in August 2011. The art began affecting the poems when Adam Scott Mazer created the art for the poems KMA felt didn’t require additional revisions. As the art came in, KMA realized that there were poems that needed revision to ensure they were at their peak before Adam provided his visual interpretation. I never had anything in mind from a visual standpoint and what has come out of this collaboration has been amazing.


I really enjoyed Adam Scott Mazer’s artwork. Those thick, heavy lines and the lean towards the grotesque brings up the obvious R. Crumb comparison–– along with artists like Paul Pope and Richard Corben. To me, “Revision” has one of the most striking images in the book. It’s of the classic snake eating its own tail, but in reverse, and then striking out at the reader. How involved were you in the creation of these images? 

Creating visual art is not my strong suit (I’m good with stick figures and 3D boxes). The art for The Bones of Us would have been comprised if I provided input on how I thought each piece should look. Seeing the first couple of pieces Adam created, KMA and I fully trusted his vision on where he was going with each poem. The only thing that we needed reworked was the cover, and even then the reworking was slight.


The book deals with the dissolution of a marriage and its aftermath. I listened to your interview on Rachelle Cruz’s excellent Internet radio show, The Blood Jet Writing Hour, and you talked about how writing love and lust should include all that is messy and ugly because in life it is this way. If we take that idea, aside from what we commonly associate with heartbreak, what also needs to be included?

You have to include how you contributed to the dissolution of a relationship, admit the things that scare you the most about being alone, how you could have done better. This also needs to be accomplished in a way where you aren’t as emotional as a raging firehose. It is easy to be angry, hurt, heartbroken and have those emotions corrupt your writing. The trick is controlling that pain and sculpting it into something honest and beautiful.


There’s a certain trickiness that arises when writing about a broken relationship because, in the end, the story being told can only come from the writer’s perspective. A lot of times in poetry that other person is a blank slate that houses the voice of the poem’s frustrations and disappointments–– all the loss and sorrow they are left with in the aftermath. How did you try to approach writing about the “other person”?

You can’t paint the “other person” as a sole antagonistic force in the disintegration of a relationship. A relationship takes two to maintain, two to end. You have to not be afraid of writing things that cause you to flinch while reading it.


Since we’re dealing with a hybrid entry into the graphic novel art form, let’s talk comics. How would you fix this whole mess DC created when they essentially rebooted their universe and left the new status quo of a great majority their characters to inexperienced writers, mediocre writers who don’t understand how drugs work (*cough* JT Krul!), terrible writers, over-the-hill and out-of-touch writers, and wack-ass Scott Lobdell? 

I would love to see some TV writers step in and see what they could do to fix (hell, just create) continuity. Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad creator) did an incredible job of creating a universe, maintaining it, even looping back to things introduced in earlier seasons. Brian K. Vaughn (who created Y: The Last Man for the Vertigo line) would also make an awesome Editor-In-Chief (he salvaged Lost as best he could). I just finished watching True Detective and I would love to see how Nic Pizzolatto would run DC, what writers he could bring in, the stories they could write (and the movies they could produce). Also, bringing in Warren Ellis to run things would be good (if he ever would work for them again) as he is a slave to research and would do wonderful and horrible things to DC.

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