There is this thing in slam called a signature poem where when people hear that poem, they know it is you. In 2003, mine was “The Angriest Penguin In The World”. As you’ll read and hear, I was a touch obsessed in revenge and my self-esteem issues. I have left the I’s in lower case to preserve the emotardness of the poem. Here you go.

the angriest penguin in the world

when i was born,
my feet didn’t point straight
like everyone elses.
my right foot pointed in a 45 degree angle
while the left pointed in a 135 degree angle
i didn’t walk,
i waddled.

it didn’t matter at first,
no one paid attention to the way i walked,
except family members who reminded me
to try and walk straight now and again
to alleviate the situation.

but then elementary school
reared its wided-eyed, toothy grinned
and sharpened tonuge facade
and that’s when the other kids noticed
the acute and obtuse shape of my walk
and started to quack
whenever i walked.

“quack quack quack quack quack”
the kids would say,
“hey! it’s duckwalk”
they would say.
“waddle for us, duckwalk.
give us a show.”
they would say.

and to me, this was insulting
because who wanted to be a duck,
with their webbed feet, waterproof feathers
and their migration habits?

i wanted to be a penguin.

penguins, on the outside,
don’t look like much.
they’re cuddly and cute.
they can’t fly
at least not in the air.
once they hit the water,
zoom zoom zoom
they are nature’s torpedos.
anyone can fly
but few can swim so gracefully
like the penguin.

and let’s not forget
that penguins know how
to lay the smackdown.
you saw Batman Returns didn’t you?

i don’t look like much on the outside,
but inside i am graceful and strong.

this penguin walkin motherfucker
gets his payback
everytime i run into a kid who used to call him
all grown up shopping in a supermarket
telling me they’ve been working
some shit ass job
and outside i offer my condolences
but inside, i laugh and tell myself
this is what happens when you fuck
with a penguin soul


Sea Giraffe was nice enough to include my poem, “Dead White Men Tell Too Many Tales”, in their first wave. You can read it here.

Burrow Press and I are starting a prose only reading series called There Will Be Words.  The first one will be May 10 at Urban ReThink. The line up and details to be announced shortly. I am incredibly excited about this venture with these fine folks. We’re gonna do some good.


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About J. Bradley

J. Bradley's is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals including decomP, Hobart, and Prairie Schooner. He was the Interviews Editor of PANK, the Flash Fiction Editor of NAP, and the Web Editor of Monkeybicycle. He is the author of the poetry collection Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009), the novella Bodies Made of Smoke (HOUSEFIRE, 2012), and the graphic poetry collection The Bones of Us (YesYes Books, 2014), illustrated by Adam Scott Mazer. He is the curator of the Central Florida reading series There Will Be Words and lives at

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