Author Tribute: Burt Bradley
Last week, my heart was broken by the news that poet and educator Burt Bradley passed away on January 16th.
Burt was my first writing mentor and a lifelong friend. We met in 1997 when I was recommended to his new Writing House program at Northwest Community College in Powell, Wyoming.
Few people know that poetry was my first love when I entered the writing world. This was back before the personal essay was the recognized form it is now, and creative fiction memoir were only just starting to get noticed.
I wrote poems about the guys I dated and the dogs I worked with, the stuff that’s important to a college aged gal. I showed it all to Burt, even when I was embarrassed of my work, and he always encouraged me to write more, more, more. To this days, I still have folders of my writing from my college years, some of which has Burt’s handwritten feedback in the margins.
When I left Wyoming at age twenty, for a new adventure on the east coast, Burt told me I reminded him of a Joseph Campell quote about following your bliss.
Not long after my move, I found a magnet printed with this quote. I sent it to Burt with a note thanking him for teaching it to me. These words have stayed with with me for over two decades.
In 2018, Burt won the 2018 Homebound Publication Poetry Prize. In 2019, Homebound Publications published his first poetry collection. When I saw his FaceBook post about the upcoming publication, I messaged him to order a copy right away. We exchanged messages and talked about trying to meet up when he did some regional readings that fall or the following spring. That was in the summer of 2019 and was our last exchange.
After Following is a beautiful collection of poems inspired by the nature and everyday life. Many of the poems written in homage to various poets who influenced Burt throughout his career. He perfectly captures the essence of the Wyoming landscape and climate. These poems are personal and yet relatable. His writing has a dreamlike quality at times and invokes vivid images.
Burt died the same week I learned of my Grandfather’s passing. It was a double whammy that caused me to think a lot about the men in my life, past and present.
I read one comment after another on the announcement posted by Burt’s wife. Hundreds of people like me were shaped by this man. That’s such a powerful thing to see in writing.
I’m sad that Burt is gone, I’m also angry because COVID complicates everything. I don’t know if there will be a memorial service. If there is, I certainly won’t travel to Wyoming to attend it.
This post is my own personal memorial. This is how I am saying thank you and goodbye to Burt. At the same time, I hope to introduce you to his words so that they may live on.