David Bradford is a poet, translator and editor based in Tioh'tia:ke (Montréal). He holds a BA from Concordia University and an MFA from the University of Guelph. A lifelong Montrealer, Bradford’s work formally engages and frustrates dominant conceptions of blackness in the Diaspora. His poetry has appeared in, among others, Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead, fillingStation, The Capilano Review, Carte Blanche, and anthologized in The Unpublished City, a 2018 Toronto Book Awards finalist. He is the author of several chapbooks, including Call Out (knife | fork | book, 2017), Nell Zink Is Damn Free (Blank Cheque Press, 2017), and The Plot (House House Press, 2018). Bradford’s first book, Dream of No One but Myself (Brick Books, 2021), is an interdisciplinary inquiry into the versioning aspects of his and his family’s histories with abuse and trauma, and was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Bradford's second book, Bottom Rail on Top, is forthcoming in 2023 from Brick Books.
For the longest time, certainly all thru high school, reading didn't really seem like it was for me. Poetry in particular. But music, and hip hop specifically and broadly, was my poems and poets. And I'd be studying bars and songs on repeat.
So, I'm remembering, Erykah Badu felt especially huge to me. To conspicuously date myself, I was a Walkman kid before I was a Discman dude, bringing Columbia Record Club CDs over to tape on a mini stereo I had, and my copy of Baduizm might have been one of the first. I still go back to those songs all the time. But in particular, I'm still going back to "Other Side of the Game."
The whole thing is as smooth and slow a banger as you can get, but the lyrics in particular are heavy with this masterful economy. The opening non-chorus verse was blowing my mind with its simple but gigangtic double meaning just a few months back. It begins, "Do I really / want my baby." I think it took about eighty listens, as a teenager, for me to realize she meant her child, as well as her love. The rest of the song unfurls inside of the expansive stakes of those two lines. Right on time, that's poetry, I thought, I think.
I learned a lot from that track and others as a poet.
I started first year out of high school, in CEGEP. But I don't think I started thinking of myself seriously in that poet way until the next year, when I had my first creative writing class.
To inquire into things. But not so much in an offering-hard-and-clear answers kind of way. So, to inquire into things, but sort of as an end in itself.
To me, it's a matter of describing the intricacies of the questions at hand. To describe the world of the problems, experiences and/or mysteries at hand. To show the metabolism and textures of the figuring — as opposed to the figured — out.
Jas M. Morgan's "niya." For how much it collapses into the speaker's encounter, and their fully-loaded present. I like how many tones (angry, cheerful, laughing, done) you could weave into the poem out loud without it quite losing anything. It has a way of carrying itself, no matter what you might bring to it.