Dream of No One but Myself is an interdisciplinary, lyrical unravelling of the trauma-memoir-as-proof-it’s-now-handled motif, illuminating what an auto-archival alternative to it might look like in motion. Through a complex juxtaposition of lyric verse and self-erasure, family keepsake and transformed photo, David Bradford engages the gap between the drive toward self-understanding and the excavated, tangled narratives autobiography can’t quite reconcile. The translation of early memory into language is a set of decisions, and in Dream of No One but Myself, Bradford decides and then decides again, composing a deliberately unstable, frayed account of family inheritance, intergenerational traumas, and domestic tenderness.
More essayistic lyric than lyrical essay, this is a satisfyingly unsettling and off-kilter debut that charts, shapes, fragments, and embraces the unresolvable. These gorgeous, halting poems ultimately take the urge to make linear sense of one’s own history and diffract it into innumerable beams of light.
Praise for Dream of No One But Myself:
“Dream of No One But Myself immerses the reader into an archival torrent of intergenerational trauma. This stunning debut never settles for formal complacency as it navigates the rhythmical intelligence of linguistic play, the anguished vigilance of footnotes, and the creased visual proofs of tenderness. Amid his troubled subjects, David Bradford’s most urgent relationship is with language. The poet’s inventive language never slips into just a stunt: it surprises and stirs with its honesty and vulnerability and manages to make whole everything it has so spectacularly torn.” — Judges’ Citation, 2022 Griffin Poetry Prize
“To speak of the self within the deconstruction of language, to bring meaning to language fragments through the skillful use of docu-poetics: this brings joy. David Bradford’s Dream of No One But Myself is an impressive and beautiful debut, bringing together experimental poetics with an urgent lyric voice. It understands that to get at meaning one must assemble and disassemble, obscure and clarify. A book you can’t stop reading once you start.” — Jury Citation, 2022 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award
“An astounding accomplishment. At times Bradford’s work is sound and rhythm. At times collage and cut up. At times erasure and distortion. Every page of this work challenged me to be on my toes as a reader, and I wanted to rise to that challenge each time. Dream of No One but Myself is a difficult, necessary book on family and belonging that explodes those very ideas page by page.” — Jury Citation, 2022 A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry
“David Bradford’s Dream of No One But Myself is a beautiful mash-up of a book—a “survivor-survivor” memoir about a troubled mixed-race family from Montreal in which shards, footnotes, erasures, ripped and reconstructed family photos, and the play of sound and silence combine to conjure the essence of a complex and irresolvable past.” — Honourable Mention, 2022 VMI Betsy Warland Between Genres Award
“How does sound assemble meaning, assemble relationships across time lines, patterned, steeped, torn and adorned? David Bradford’s lyric compositions and decompositions perform narration erasures, narrating to unnarrate, visual, textual — and to somehow also live again in language, in consideration and construction, as recognition’s dream.”— Hoa Nguyen, author of A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure
“In Dream of No One but Myself, the structural instability of a dream is mapped onto a family. It is then reflected in the mutability of poetic form. A father’s estrangement pulls a child into contradiction, toward desiring connection while straining away from that connection. Poetic form also strains, stretches from prose poems in compact rhythmic units to disjunctive works that slice across the page, to suites of anguished, cut-up family photographs and beautifully abstract, decomposing erasure works that bloom into ruinous new shapes. These formal strategies are never forced; rather, they establish a narrative that doubles — that infuses and is transformed by — the Dream of No One but Myself.“ — Kaie Kellough, author of Magnetic Equator
“Perhaps I would have held my breath for the entirety of this text if not for the wisp and grey, the ventilation surfacing in tide pools of visual poems — bramble relief against whiteout smears — watercolours, combed thru brunt and backhand. The poet’s vision, the constant footnote to a whole contingency, manages to bear, be bearable, to be here, to pull through, and with, “survivor-survivor” narratives held carefully and hauntingly. Much love and relation to the composite shards, difficult folds and dovetail joints Bradford realises in this important book.” — Cecily Nicholson, author of Wayside Sang
David Bradford’s Dream of No One But Myself explores family via words and images – CBC
Griffin finalists on the role of poetry in making sense of the world — Toronto Star