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  • Elemental Conversations: Ryan W. Bradley

    Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic’s shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children’s bookstore. He now designs book covers. He is the author of four poetry chapbooks, two full-length poetry collections, including THE WAITING TIDE, and a collaborative collection with David Tomaloff. He is also the author of a story collection, and CODE FOR FAILURE, his debut novel. A novella, WINTERSWIM is forthcoming in late 2014. He received his MFA from Pacific University and lives in Oregon with his wife and two sons.

    Ryan W. Bradley

    3ER: Was there a specific element that sparked your story idea?

    RWB: A good deal of my stories come from titles or first lines and that was the case with “The Gentleman Vagina.” The title hit me one day and when the opportunity to try and write something for 3Elements came along I decided that was the right time to use the title.

    3ER: What do you want to tell readers about your piece? 

    RWB: Laugh. Please?

    3ER: Where can we read more of your work? 

    RWB: In far too many places to name. Does that sound douchey? My website has a pretty comprehensive list:

    Excerpt from Ryan’s short story, The Gentleman Vagina

    It’s not so bad dating an actress — even a wannabe. Most of the time at least. I don’t like to complain, and I really don’t mind when Andrea wants to do skits in the backyard. As long as I’ve got a six-pack I’m good. I just sit in the hammock and watch her do monologues she learns for her acting class. But it gets weird when it follows us to the bedroom.

    Continue reading here.

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    Reasons to Write (and Love) Poetry

    Composing poetry strengthens your writing skills no matter what genre of writing you prefer. Hesitant? Skeptical? Never fear. Make poetry a part of your regular writing practice and you’ll improve your writing across all genres.

    A poem finds its genesis in the itchy tingling of an intense emotion or complex idea that clamors for expression. Poetry offers rebellion to those oppressed by the mundane, the trivial; writing a good poem opens a portal to deeper understanding of one’s internal life and catharsis for difficult-to-express ideas and complex feelings.

     How can writing poetry improve your prose?

    First and foremost, poetry requires laser-precision diction. Often an intensive exploration of nuanced and complex ideas, good poetry demands an exhaustive search for le mot juste and discourages the use of empty and redundant words. Good poets compulsively avoid vague language, including weak and padded verbs, intensifiers and qualifiers, catch-all terms, generic adjectives, excessive pronouns, and cliche. Creating a poem is an obsessive hunt for language focused and rich enough to spark fresh, vibrant images in a reader’s mind. A natural logophile, the working poet’s already impressive vocabulary expands exponentially over time. If you find yourself dashing out a draft without agonizing over your wording, you may not be writing poetry well. Poets typically labor over words, killing unnecessary verbiage with the tenacity and objectivity of a literary Dexter Morgan. Obviously, a disciplined practice of scrutinizing word choices benefits the writer of any genre. In other words, the diction skills developed while writing poetry transfer to other forms of writing.

    Writing poetry also offers a crash course in literary devices that will benefit your work in all genres. Do you remember what consonance and assonance are? How about synechdoche? Metonymy? Or even plain old personification, metaphor, and simile? What about everyday alliteration? Strong poets rub elbows frequently with all classes of literary devices. Such intimacy naturally inspires sharper, richer images and stronger fluency in writing. In other words, poets tend to pay conscious attention to the way language sounds (its music, its flow) and to the surprising comparisons possible when language is pushed beyond expected associations. Such attention to literary devices can and will improve all forms of writing.

    Despite my harping about hard work, writing poetry is enjoyable. The sense of accomplishment from writing a poem brings great satisfaction. Then again, perhaps it helps to be a bit OCD. The perfectionist who, like me, must alphabetize all her books, DVDs, and vinyl will find obvious enjoyment in ferreting out the right words, the phrases that flow, fresh comparisons, and heady expressions of strong emotions or complex ideas. Like Dexter Morgan, I channel my perhaps unnatural urges for order into the art form that is a poem, and my OCD perfectionism is satisfied…for awhile. Until the next itching for expression starts.

    If you don’t typically write poems, start now. Begin by reading excellent poetry. A great way to initiate yourself into the world of verse is to check out the Best American Poetry series. Or reread the classics. Either way, you’ll find examples of poetry that inspire. Ideas and language in the poems you read will resonate with you, and you’ll discover the incipient itching of a nascent poem demanding to be written. Poetry is, afterall, contagious. The only possible cure for the terrible itching tingle is writing a poem.

    In closing and for inspiration, I’ll leave you with an excellent poem that celebrates the animalistic pleasure renowned poet Mark Strand finds in reading poetry:

     Eating Poetry

    Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.

    There is no happiness like mine.

    I have been eating poetry.


    The librarian does not believe what she sees.

    Her eyes are sad

    and she walks with her hands in her dress.


    The poems are gone.

    The light is dim.

    The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.


    Their eyeballs roll,

    their blond legs burn like brush.

    The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.


    She does not understand.

    When I get on my knees and lick her hand,

    she screams.


    I am a new man,

    I snarl at her and bark,

    I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

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    What We Like

    At 3Elements Review, we don’t have a particular style that we are looking for. However, there are some things that we absolutely look for.

    1. Use the three elements. Do this. Period. There is nothing more infuriating than getting a good piece that does not have the elements in it. It sends the message that the writer does not take the time to read submission guidelines. We’ve made our website user-friendly, so the elements are on the main page and the submission page.
    2. We look for voice. We want to read something that takes our attention and lets us into the head of a character or to a place we’ve never visited, real or imagined. We want the author’s voice to be distinct. We want each piece in our published review to stand apart from the rest.
    3. We look for innovation. How do you use the elements? Literally? Figuratively? Do you create images that are unique? “Tandem Bicycle” was one of the elements for our first issue. One author used this element to describe the movement of eyes, and that alone sold me on the piece (and the piece was quite brilliant, anyway). We also seek out how forms are used with innovation within the actual pieces.
    4. We seek out different experiences. What I mean by this is that we love getting stories, non-fiction pieces, and poetry that reflect various cultures, ages, sexes, genders, sexual orientations, races, religious beliefs, nationalities, etc. We were so stunned to get work from Canada and the U.K. for our first issue and love when we accept pieces and see that they come from writers across the country and globe.
    5. We look for good writing. This includes clean copy. We are sorry, but if your piece is not in clean copy, it is not ready for publication. Make sure to revise for mechanics and grammar before submitting a piece to us. Aside from that, we look for writing that has those lines that just become part of you. Don’t know what I mean? Read Amy Hempel’s “In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried.” There are many lines that are like a right hook to the face, stunning you and hurting you and making you want to cry in the space of a short sentence.

    We also have a few writers and works that we like and would recommend contributors and fans of 3ER to read.


    • Adam Levin’s Hot Pink
    • Flannery O’Connor  (anything by her)
    • Joyce Carol Oates
    • Alice Munro
    • Brady Udall’s Letting Loose the Hounds
    • Karen Russell’s St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
    • Sherman Alexie
    • Joe Meno’s Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir (Mikaela’s favorite Joe Meno short story was recently reprinted at Goreyesque.
    • George Saunders
    • Ray Bradbury
    • Christine Sneed’s A Portrait of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry
    • Bonnie Jo Campbell’s American Salvage
    • Junot Diaz
    • Edgar Allan Poe
    • Anton Chekhov
    • Kurt Vonnegut
    • Cormac McCarthy
    • Isabelle Allende
    • John Steinbeck
    • Dave Eggers
    • Haruki Murakami
    • Andre Dubus


    • Steve Almond
    • Jonathan Ames
    • Sloane Crosley
    • Annie Dillard
    • Luis Alberto Urrea


    • Sherman Alexie
    • John Ashberry
    • Bruce Bond
    • Raymond Carver
    • Jennifer Chang
    • Billy Collins
    • E.E. Cummings
    • Stephen Dunn
    • Nikki Giovanni
    • Louise Gluck
    • Edward Hirsch
    • Yosef Komunyakaa
    • Ted Kooser
    • Rebecca Lindenberg
    • Pablo Neruda
    • Sharon Olds
    • Mary Oliver
    • Adrienne Rich
    • Mark Strand
    • May Swenson
    • Joshua Young
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