War on Words
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Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
December 13, 2006
DeKalb, Ill. — Most writers are fortunate to produce one book in a single year. Northern Illinois University English Instructor John Bradley put out two books in a span of days.
“They both came out within a week of each other this fall, but it wasn’t planned that way,” Bradley explained.
He spent six years working on “Terrestrial Music” (Curbstone Press), a collection of poems that explores issues that affect our daily lives, such as ecology, genocide, hunger, violence and the nuclear age.
“It is personal poetry, but it also deals with a lot of social issues,” Bradley says. “There are quite a few references to DeKalb that make it into the book, including the first poem, which references the first house my wife and I lived in on Ninth and Lewis streets.”
The poetry collection has been well received. Poet Maggie Jaffe writes that “through precision of language and integrity of image, John Bradley’s ‘Terrestrial Music’ embodies the minor triumphs and enormous despairs of our Atomic Century.”
Bradley’s second book is titled “War on Words: The John Bradley/Tomaz Salamun* Confusement” (BlazeVOX). It is structured as an imaginary correspondence between Bradley and internationally renowned Slovenian poet Tomaz Salamun.
“The book is an experimental novel, a series of imaginary letters between me and Tomaz Salamun,” Bradley says. “I was reading his work, which I greatly admire, and started to see phrases that were in my poetry. I thought, what if I wrote him a letter? It just took off from there.”
Bradley has had a few e-mail correspondences with Salamun in real life but hasn’t heard from him since the book was published. However, Salamun—who has been known to make up words and bend language, giving it a surreal quality—did provide the publisher with high praise when describing his reaction to Bradley’s manuscript.
“I went through different stages: shock, amazement, I was pale, laughter - a lot -, awe, guilt, aphssss!, even my mind wanted to take off for a moment, but mostly gratitude, I was moved; I am moved.”
Bradley has been teaching first-year composition and a variety of other courses at NIU since 1992. His 1989 book of poetry titled, “Love-In-Idleness,” won the Washington Prize.
Bradley also is the editor of a collection of reflections on the nuclear age, “Atomic Ghost: Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age,” and a similarly themed collection of essays, “Learning to Glow: A Nuclear Reader.” He is the recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in poetry.