Poets Of The Week: Eirean Bradley And Marty McConnell

Poets Of The Week: Eirean Bradley And Marty McConnell

Discussing publication, choco tacos, and crazy places poetry has taken them!

It amazes me that we are already 8 weeks into this series of Poets of the Week. You can check out all the previous articles here. I'll be here with 2 poets a week every week from now until December 19!

This week, I had the honor of interviewing two long-time poetry veterans, Eirean Bradley, editor of Drunk in a Midnight Choir and altogether awesome human, and Marty McConnell, poet and teacher and in my top two all-time favorite female poets. I was first introduced to Eirean's poetry through a friend of mine who covered "Falling in Love with a Divorcee"

at an open mic. I found Marty's poem, "Instructions for a Body,"

when I was prepping for the National Poetry Slam last year and I still tear up and feel majorly empowered every time I listen and watch her work!

Here's what these poets had to say about their poetry, their history, their advice to young poets, and how poetry has changed in the last decade, as well as their favorite candy!

Q: This is rare to have two poets on this series that have known each other and worked together before. How do you two know each other?

Eirean Bradley: I want to say that we met at the ABQ poetry festival in 1998. Is that right? It was either 98 or 99. We have a mutual friend (Andi Strickland, one of my favorite poets of all time) who was really instrumental in my coming up in the Phoenix, AZ poetry scene and she was originally from Chicago where Marty is from. I don’t know: it just always felt like we were vouched for as friends/good folks first, and talented poets second, ya know? Also, we were both young and pretty mouthy so I think we just always got along.

Marty McConnell: I think the first time we met was at the Albuquerque Poetry Festival in 1998, maybe it was 1997. Eirean let me and the two women I was traveling with, Andi Strickland and Heather Gawronski, stay at his place -- gave us his bed actually -- during the festival. Then there was the brief stint where Eirean lived in NYC and I was also there, so we crossed paths around the louderARTS show I was co-curating, and times in common we were at NPS events, then Eirean was running the Portland Poetry Slam and my sister lives in Portland… basically we know each other the way I know so many amazing people through this wild and widespread community.

Q: Where and when did you get your start in poetry?

Eirean Bradley: I got into poetry in 1995 in Phoenix, AZ. I went to my first poetry slam because Mary McCann who was my favorite DJ at my favorite radio station (the dearly departed KUKQ) was the host. I didn’t know sh*t about poetry but I came from the world of punk rock so screaming things at strangers wasn’t so scary. I was also really lucky, because my first night the featured poet was a dude named Chris Chandler from Atlanta and he was this magnetic weirdo who immediately got me enthralled in the possibilities of performance poetry. It was kinda on after that.

Marty McConnell: I don’t know what a start in poetry is, really… maybe Des Plaines, Illinois, around 1979 when my grandmother gave me “A Children's Book of Verse.” Or when I started going to open mics in Cincinnati (actually Kentucky because Cincinnati didn’t have one) around 1996, or when I quit my career in public relations in 1999 to travel the country in a van and then move to NYC for grad school.

Q: Have you released any chapbooks, CDs, merchandise for your poetry?

Eirean Bradley: I have released two books on University of Hell Press and been in a bunch of cool anthologies (Again I wait for this to Pull Apart on FreezeRay Press, Welcome to the New Hallelujah on Drunk in a Midnight Choir, and Poetry Slam on Manic D Press, to name a few…) I have released a few cds that are looooooooooooong since out of print.

Marty McConnell: The book people can actually get their hands on is “wine for a shotgun,” published by EM Press. Over the years I’ve Kinkos-produced a slew of chapbooks and laptop-recorded CDs, but those are mostly available through old-guard slam poet’s garage sales when they decide finally to get rid of their library backlog.

Q: What is the furthest place that poetry has taken you? (Another country, across country, another mindset, etc)

Eirean Bradley: Damn, I’m sure Marty’s answer is gonna be radder than mine. I have travelled all over the country and gotten to perform at basically every kind of venue from Biker Bar to Church Service to Psych Ward to State Penitentiary to Elementary Schools.

I think, the coolest thing though is my involvement in poetry has gotten me involved with thousands of different people from different walks of life and social standings. It really has been the skeleton key that has unlocked a lot of really interesting doors for me.

Marty McConnell: Psychologically, the furthest place poetry has taken me is into a life I could never have imagined for myself, could never have built without writing and performing poetry as its base -- a life with the concept of me as a creator at its center. Geographically, Berlin.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your writing?

Eirean Bradley: TO NOT SUCK. SERIOUSLY. And I only get there about half of the time depending on who you ask.

Marty McConnell: Finding ways to write beyond autobiography while maintaining authenticity and avoiding appropriation.

Q: How has poetry changed over the past decade, both personally and globally?

Eirean Bradley: OH SWEET JESUS. GOT AN HOUR? Well, for the personally: I have spent the last decade being over 30 so the spazzy angry young man who was my poetic voice before that has died of old age. I used to cram 1000 words where now a wisely chosen 100 or so will do just fine.

As for globally, the rise of viable self-publishing/small presses has really been a game changer that is making publishing poetry a more egalitarian thing. I mean, you still have to social climb and network if you want to be on one of the “big” presses but now, if you just want to be a curmudgeon who likes to get stoned and play Kung Fu on his NES after work like I do, there’s infinite options.

I choose option Kung Fu.

Marty McConnell: Well, there is no “poetry,” right? At any given moment, there are a multitude of poetries occurring, evolving, atrophying, being reborn… I will say that within American poetry I see a long overdue recognition of the work of writers who have been long marginalized: poets of color, queer poets, etc. But that’s not poetry changing, it’s the canon shifting incrementally. Slam, hip-hop, the return to understanding poetry as an oral as well as a written art, these have birthed generations with different understandings of what poetry is and does, and most importantly, who has access to it and can make their way as a poet. But has poetry itself changed? I don’t know.

Q: What is your favorite candy and why?

Eirean Bradley: Motherf*cking CHOCO TACO. Because it’s a frozen chocolate taco. And proof that god is Not Dead. (You have no idea how quickly I typed that response. I have had to think out every other question but not the Choco Taco.) [Interviewer Note: Pictured below is a Choco Taco.]

Marty McConnell: Twizzlers, though I can’t really eat them now because they contain gluten. In any home occupied by a family on my mother’s side, there’s a kitchen cabinet that contains Twizzlers. I can usually spot it within a few minutes of arrival.

Q: As veteran poets, what is some good advice for new and aspiring writers and poets?

Eirean Bradley: Dance with who brought you to the party. Don’t chase whatever trend our movement comes around. If you have any longevity you will see about 35 of them come and go. There will be times that you are desperately uncool. I have been uncool at least 85 godd*mn times. Luckily, I have been cool about 86 times.

Marty McConnell: Read beyond your immediate circle. Beyond your friends’ work, beyond the work that immediately resonates with or makes sense to you. Read essays on poetry as well as poetry itself. Seek out people who want to talk with you about what you’re reading, and what they’re reading, what you relish about what you’re reading as well as what you don’t understand or vehemently oppose or are just bored by. Read work by people who are like you, and people who are nothing like you. Read work by long dead writers, and the person reading at the bookstore down the street. In short: read. And if budget’s too tight for all the books you want or it’s overwhelming, great places to start are Verse Daily or Poetry Daily, where you can see a range of poems from various literary magazines and books and then seek out those writers’ work elsewhere.

Next Week: Caseyrenee Lopez and Mckendy Fils-Aimé

Cover Image Credit: Eirean Bradley and Marty McConnell

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If Taylor Swift Songs Were Types Of Alcohol

Because what's better than a drink and some T-Swift?

With Taylor Swift's quick return to the music scene... and in a big way, might I add, I decided to associate some of the best Taylor Swift songs with alcohol.

I mean, who wouldn't want to drink to Taylor Swift's catchy melodies and perfect choruses to get over an ex or tell someone exactly how you feel about them?

Taylor Swift has been around for a decade at this point, and let's face it, pretty much all of her songs could go along with at least one type of alcohol.

1. "Welcome To New York" - Moscow Mule

It only makes sense. Visit the Big Apple and you have to indulge in the state's signature cocktail. Moscow mules are a New York classic, and if it's your first night in the city and you haven't bought yourself one, are you even in New York?

2. "Blank Space" - Everclear

Think about it... A night of drinking Everclear will leave you with a giant blank space the next day. You might also look like Taylor did in the music video.

3. "Tim McGraw" - Beer

Tim McGraw is a throwback to Taylor's high school love. What better way to reminisce than with a couple friends and a keg of your favorite cheap beer?

4. "Style" - Cristal Champagne

What's more stylish than with a glass of the most expensive bubbly you can find? Just like Taylor Swift, Cristal will never go out of style.

5. "Shake It Off" - Martini

Get it? Cause you shake a martini? I might be the only one who thinks that's funny but you might end up dancing a little bit with a martini in hand when "Shake It Off" come on the radio.

6. "Red" - Merlot

Red has to go along with a red wine. What else could go along with yet *another* T-Swift breakup song?

7. "22" - Margaritas

Let's face it, when you're 22, you really only drink margaritas. They're fun- and all the hipsters are probably drinking them too.

8. "Teardrops On My Guitar" - Southern Comfort

When your heart is broken, who are you going to turn to besides the only alcohol that gives you comfort...Southern Comfort that is.

9. "I Knew You Were Trouble" - Fireball

I can't say I've ever met anyone who spent a night with Fireball and didn't regret it the next morning.

10. "Look What You Mad Me Do" - Tequila

T-Swift's latest single is an angry one. What better to make you angry than tequila? Taylor basically just called out everyone who had ever talked about her behind her back and she did it in true Taylor fashion-by writing a song. She was probably drunk on tequila when she wrote it too.

11. ...Ready For It? - Bottomless Mimosas

Because it's just that good.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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Board Games Are More Important Than You Think They Are

They've become a defining part of my family.


Remember when you were a kid and you'd have a family game night? Or your friends would come over and you'd open the game cabinet and play at least three different games together?

Maybe it's just me, but those are some of my best memories from my childhood. My family loves games, board games, and electronic games.

Of course, as I got older, gaming consoles like PlayStation and Wii became more and more popular. That meant that the game cabinet was opened less and less, collecting dust.

Thankfully, I live in New Jersey near the shore and Hurricane Sandy left my family with no power for five days. Sure, it was scary not having power and walking around my neighborhood seeing fallen trees or roof shingles, but we were inland enough to not have had any flood water damage.

No power also meant no PlayStation or Wii games. The gaming cabinet was opened again, this time with vigor. Now, four years later, and I still think about sitting in the dark with a flashlight playing Scrabble with my family.

That was also the week I learned how to play Yahtzee and dominated my dad in every game. My sister constantly was looking for someone to play her to Battleship. We exhausted Rummikub.

The game was already a family favorite, and that's including extended family. Family barbeques had been ending with late night games of Rummikub for at least a year by the time Sandy hit.

We were ready to strategize and crunch numbers, but after day three, we never wanted to a number ever again.

This semester, there's been a surge of board game love again in my family. My sister bought Jenga, which we are currently trying to exhaust ourselves with. My favorite board game also had a comeback: Life.

I loved this game so much that I had the SpongeBob version as a kid. I would play it with my best friend, just the two of us, playing game after game of Bikini Bottom themed Life. Now, I have a car full of "kids" that I've started to make pets in my head. I can handle having five pretend dogs, but not five pretend kids.

I don't know what it is about board games, but my family has always had an affinity for them. We've gone through our cycles of playing video games and card games, but we always come back to the classics. Maybe it's more a defining part of my family than I originally thought.

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