Bradley Galimore has a real relaxing vibe, which is good, because he’s also always pushing the envelope artistically, which is something you don’t want to be too anxious about. Here we talk about his work on his serial narrative poem, LENNY, its origins and influences.
MM: I’m interested in starting with the title of your column for Poetry Question, if that’s okay. Why LENNY?
BG: I’m a very “go with the flow/follow the signs” kinda guy. I had just met someone during the shaping of the concept. He used to call me Lenny. I’m a huge fan of Lenny Kravitz . I was playing the Baptism album heavily at that time while doing a color study. How he immersed himself on the cover intrigued me and felt like there was something there.
When I think of the name, I feel like the audacity of it is very subtle. Like Lenny “should” be a background character. I wanted to explore that.
MM: That’s so interesting. The only association I had with the name was Steinbeck’s Lennie Small. I was sort of looking for a connection there, because of course, that book has an intense male friendship at its center, which could be read as a love story. But I think the real origin is much more interesting.
BG: That’s the beauty of a GOOD name. Even in variation, the name still holds a center story. I wrote Lenny between living in Brooklyn & Manhattan. I found out a few months later that’s exactly the life Lenny Kravitz had. Parallels and intersectionality are constant once you are “on your path”. Sorry to sound so “hippie.” *laughs*
MM: No worries about hippie stuff, if a poet can’t believe in a universe resounding with meaning, then who IS allowed?
BG: Very true. *laughs*
MM: So let’s talk a little about what you’re going for with Lenny. You’ve compared it to a TV show, or a podcast. What is it about those other mediums you’re trying to capture?
BG: Poetry Question asks daily “How Will You Poetry Today?” And that is something I legitimately considered when approaching this column. I wanted every day of this character’s life to be poetry. In my head, I thought the only way to do a weekly drop of narrative poetry, question the limits of what we consider poetry, and still truly “push the pen” in this day and age, was to approach it as a show. My approach to “Sex And The City/Carrie Bradshaw” (who lived a few blocks from my apartment in Manhattan).
I figured poetry is out of the literary cycle (the market is currently fantasy/sci-fi) so I had some room to experiment.
And last but not least, I hadn’t seen it done before. So I knew the lane was wide open.
MM: When I think of narrative poetry, as well as serial storytelling, my mind goes to epic poetry and novels, these stories of huge scale and sweep. You’re working in a much more intimate subject matter, love and sex and dating. What appealed to you about those subjects?
BG: My personal manuscript is based around epic poetry so I knew to tie them all together in my personal portfolio I had to bring something different.
We all know poems about the emotional atmosphere, mental health, pets, etc. Where are the poems about getting an email during sex that adds a warm laughter to a humid room?
They always say write what you want to read. I solidified that for myself when I wrote “°C” and “After Glow”. Now in Season 2 (editor’s note: which premieres today, February 11, 2021), I can go even further because I’ve already dipped a toe in the other ponds of poetry.
MM: Sounds like you’ve got some exciting plans for Season 2! Looking forward to it.
In the first half of the first season, there’s this wonderful focus on, I don’t know exactly what, but in my head I called them “sweet nothings”, the little statements that make up a burgeoning relationship. I’m thinking of episode 4 ”told. (after…)” What about those statements appealed to you, made you want to make a poem of them?
BG: When you first meet someone, flirting is a huge part of what makes the “honeymoon phase” beautiful. When we think of poetry, it generally is just “the descriptive interpretation of beauty”. LENNY is designed to always be poetry in essence, so why not have a conversation where both parties only speak in poetry to each other? That idea is what appealed to me and ultimately how I shaped it.
Ironically, Told is about 2-3 years old. I initially wrote “Told” for my manuscript but it felt like it was for something else. When I started writing Lenny, it was apparent it was always meant for it. That’s how it became “Told (After…)” as a precursor to After Glow.
MM: It works really well, as a precursor to After Glow, where, (spoilers) the relationship at the heart of the season begins to fall apart a bit. Did you know that Told would come to be this sort of high water mark in the romance? Do you plot out the season before writing, or do you let the poems flow?
BG: I knew how the storyline had to play out to keep it to 10 posts between 8 episodes. I knew that was the sweet spot for a well curated musical album to ALMOST be too short. So I paced it in that way. Season 1 was knowing the outline and letting the poems fill it. Season 2 is completely written. It’s relaxing but the anticipation to release it eats away at me daily.
MM: Intense. Talking about musical albums, you’ve been clear that that’s a big influence on you. Do you have a playlist or essential listening for LENNY?
BG: Actually. Either Season 3 or Season 4 will be an actual album. Think Patti Smith x Kevin Shields. That was always the plan. I write so that you can add the music of your own life to the experience so it feels like you are personally having a conversation with Lenny.
I’m currently working through a few producers to find one who can give me the exact sound I want to encompass for how S2 progresses int S3.
I will say this though. SZA’s “Hit Different” was definitely the backtrack to the first draft of “Tempo…”
MM: It’s also important to note that much of LENNY has a sort of R&B rhythm and sexiness to it. How do you get that in, as far as form goes?
BG: I think it’s the body I “embody”. My personal look is very Glenn Lewis meets Dwele meets Maxwell meets Musiq Soulchild meets Lenny Kravitz. I listen to their albums frequently and it shapes how I “feel” TO the world. I think who we are influenced by, influences how we exude ourselves to others. So as a writer, even when I’m writing poetry about parallel universes, that vibe is still there.
MML We’re almost done here, I’m sorry to say, but thanks for the conversation. I’m gonna pick two images from your work, and then ask you to choose between them, okay?
BG: Feel free and we can talk as long as you’d like. Time isn’t real. *Laughs*
MM: True! But the wife is calling me to meal planning, so there’s that. Okay, so: A bank robbery or a summer afternoon?
BG: Oooh that’s hard. Can I rob the bank on a summer afternoon?
MM: Wow, our first tie. I’ll take it
BG: I mean. If I don’t have to choose between the two I want both.
MM: Good point. Actuall, that sets a dangerous precedent. No, you have to choose.
BG: Bank robbery. More moving parts. More stories to tell.
MM: Sounds about right.
Things I wish I’d asked him: Does going with the flow work when revising poems? What power does music have to transform poetry? What other stories would he want to see as Poetry “shows”?