David Bradford is a poet, translator and editor based in Tio'tia:ke (Montréal). He holds a BA from Concordia University and an MFA from the University of Guelph. A lifelong Montrealer raised in an allophone household, Bradford’s work emerges from critical mediations of historically dominant narratives and personal interventions in the archive. He is the author of the Griffin Poetry Prize and Gerard Lampert Memorial Prize finalist Dream of No One but Myself (Brick Books, 2021), an interdisciplinary inquiry into the versioning aspects of Bradford and his family’s histories with abuse and trauma. His work has also appeared in, among others, Brick, Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead, fillingStation, The Literary Review of Canada, The Capilano Review, and anthologized in The Unpublished City, a 2018 Toronto Book Awards finalist. Bradford's second book of poetry, Bottom Rail on Top, works to complicate prevailing conceptions of Blackness by staging one personal present alongside American histories of antebellum Black life. The collection is forthcoming in 2023.
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.