I meet with Jesse Bradley at College Park’s Infusion Tea. The teahouse smells of bright herbs and cake. There are bookshelves to peruse and novelty trinkets galore. Meeting here was a good choice. Jesse has an advanced copy of his new novel The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective in his hands and a new pair of glasses on his face.
Jesse is one of the founders of Orlando’s literary scene as we know it. I met him a little over a year ago at There Will Be Verse, a periodic poetry slam he runs. I ask him to tell me about the early days, and he says I’m asking him to dig up ancient history.
“I want to say it was the early 2000’s when I discovered poetry slam through the documentary Slam Nation,” he says.
At that time in Orlando history nearly every open mic was devoted to just music. So in 2001, he starts a poetry slam at UCF through the English Honor’s Society ΣΤΔ. They jump to downtown Orlando for a year or two, then settle into Stardust Video & Coffee (back when it was a video rental place) for 8 years.
During this time Stardust changes their business model and gets their liquor license. During this same time Jesse competes in five National Poetry Slams and gets poems published in various literary magazines.
In 2009 he gets pieces accepted in to PANK, and not too long after he becomes their Interview Editor. At this point, he’s been writing poetry exclusively for over a decade.
“My world view of literature got bigger because I worked for PANK. I read every piece that was published that month, because I would write custom interview questions for every single writer.”
This inspired Jesse to get into the fiction game. “I’d been stuck in this… this. Basically I had blinders,” he admits. Working with a literary magazine opened his world to “the larger lit landscape”. He starts writing flash fiction, and in May 2011 launches the first There Will Be Words, a monthly reading series at the Gallery at Avalon Island. The event has been running for half a decade now, and has won multiple Best of Orlando Awards, two Reader Picks and one Best Revival of Live Story Telling.
By 2012 he’d published his first novella Bodies Made of Smoke. At that point, he already had a collection of poetry out, Dodging Traffic. Two years after the novella release, he publishes illustrated poetry collection The Bones of Us, and then just a year later in 2015, releases prose poem chapbook It Is A Wild Swing Of A Knife.
This year his first novel drops. I ask him about it.
“Jesus Christ Boy Detective is about Jesus Christ trapped in the body of Timmy Hightower. Jesus is forced to solve mysteries that no 12 year old boy should be solving. Think of it as a cross between the old encyclopedia brown books, with the X-files, and really crazy episodes of Law and Order.” The book explores the mythology of Christianity and the father son relationship between (Old Testament) God and Jesus. You can expect a funny and ridiculous premise to deliver some serious social commentary. He’s been working on the book for about four years and the publication date is set for July 15.
This year, Jesse will also publish a collection of prose poems disguised as Yelp reviews called Pick How You Will Revise a Memory. He is currently finishing his MFA in Writing and working on a novella-in-flash. More on Jesse Bradley can be found at jbradleywrites.com. His Twitter & Instagram handles are @iheartfailure.
Photography by Mary McGinn.