John Bradley on the Discarded

H. L. Hix: The “Memo to Ariadne” leapt out as me as representative of the impulse behind these poems.  Is there any sense in which you yourself see all of the poems not only as stories/parables but also as lists of what you need?  (Feel free, of course, to tell me that’s stupid, and I should learn to read…)


John Bradley: I’ve always loved list poems, with their uncomplaining ability to incorporate almost anything.  The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, dating from the tenth century, contains wonderfully quirky lists.  One of my favorite list poems can be found in Doubled Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada (Roof, 1997):

As the footnote at the end of the untitled poem points out, we’re apparently reading a shopping list composed by Araki Yasusada.  In the context of the book, it both mocks the literary pretensions of poetry, and at the same suggests how the poetic can be found even in the mundane.


As you can tell from reading You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know, I see the prose poem as a repository of the discarded and unwanted, the detritus of our lives.  What we discard every day in the trash container in our homes and workplaces reveals much more about us than the public face we carefully construct for the public, our friends, and even our lovers.


Besides the list, I was also playing with the demands of a persona, in this case Theseus.  What would it take for one of us post-moderns, someone who doesn’t like to get his or her socks wet in the rain, to face a dreaded, powerful enemy like the Minotaur?  The list of needs here is a way of laughing at our our unpreparedness, and at the same time the list laughs at the speaker’s demands.  Perhaps he’s trying to list the impossible to indefinitely postpone a meeting with Mr. Minotaur?


I’m sure, though, a reader could discern much about my needs, and neediness, from reading You Don’t Know What you Don’t Know, and see aspects of me that I can’t, as I reside too close to this author, who remains pretty baffling to me despite all these years bound together.



John Bradley.  You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.  Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2010.

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