Brad Tice: The Write Stuff

When Brad Tice was considering where to pursue a graduate degree in English, UT Knoxville’s College of Arts and Sciences was the obvious choice.

“UT offered me the best graduate package,” Tice says. “Plus, I really admired the writing of the professors here—Michael Knight, Allen Wier, Marilyn Kallet, and Arthur Smith. I felt I had a lot to learn from all of them, and I wasn’t disappointed in that regard.”

Tice, who also received a bachelor’s degree in English from UT Knoxville in 2001, began his Ph.D. program five years ago. He’ll complete a doctoral degree in May, after wrapping up his creative dissertation, a collection of short stories that explores themes of sexuality, religion, disease, and age—mostly within the milieu of the American South.

Grist:  The Journal for WritersTice’s literary interest extends beyond crafting his own work. Early in his Ph.D. program, Tice and some of his colleagues began discussing the possibility of a national literary magazine based in UT Knoxville’s Department of English. They battled the obstacles of lack of time and lack of financing, and two years ago the department finally was able to offer a research assistantship designed to get the literary journal off the ground. Tice was named managing editor, and last year the première issue of Grist: The Journal for Writers was released. It featured such writers as Elizabeth Gilbert, Tom Franklin, and Jeff Daniel Marion.

“The whole experience has been really fantastic. I learned a lot about the world of publishing, and the journal has been a great resource for building community within the department,” says Tice. “Our next issue, which includes stories, poems, essays, and a graphic novel, is due to appear soon.” The second issue showcases a group of writers that includes Richard Bausch, Dorianne Laux, and John McManus.

Tice, who cites Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude as his two all-time favorite books, is working on his own novel. Tentatively titled Shadowed, it is the story of a young gay man and his battles with religion and the paranormal. “I see paranormal research and study not necessarily as a place where one may come face to face with the reality of an afterlife, or proof of the existence of good or evil, but rather as a site where human desire and psychology get written into a narrative of the exploration of the unknown,” Tice explains. “I once heard it said that there is no such thing as a haunted house—only haunted people. This quote underlines for me the inherent conflict at work in this area.”

Inspired by his study of such poets as Robert Duncan and Thom Gunn, Tice also is at work on a poetry project that integrates the events of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which sparked the gay and lesbian civil rights movement, and the story of Cupid and Psyche from classic mythology. “I decided to bring myth into the narrative for two reasons,” Tice says. “First, the very account of the Stonewall Riots has become somewhat mythic in its scope, as history has been put aside in favor of a shared cultural narrative that—while not completely historically accurate—captures the spirit of an iconic moment in gay and lesbian liberation.

“Second,” Tice continues, “many gay poets, from Mark Doty to Frank O’Hara, have used the archetypal myths of our culture in an attempt to rewrite cultural narrative so that it may include not only heterosexual narrative but also a queer story. That has been my agenda for this series of poems, as well.”

Tice has great praise for the time he has spent studying and writing here. “I knew that Knoxville had a really strong community of writers, and I felt that it was important to my own development as an author to be immersed in a community of like-minded individuals,” he says. After graduation in May 2009, Tice will relocate to a new creative community when he begins his job teaching English and creative writing at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.

—Leigh Powell