Tisa Bryant

Tisa Bryant

Teaching interests: fiction and non-fiction, mythologies, revision and adaptation, cross-cultural/cross-genre/hybrid writing, archives/research/source texts, style and mechanics of narrative

Tisa Bryant (MFA, Brown 2004) makes work that often traverses the boundaries of genre, culture and history. Unexplained Presence (Leon Works, 2007), her first full-length book, is a collection of original, hybrid essays that remix narratives from film, literature and visual arts and zoom in on the black presences operating within them. An excerpt from her novella, [the curator], was published by Belladonna Books in 2009, in a companion volume with writer Chris Kraus. She is also the author of the chapbook, Tzimmes (A+Bend Press, 2000), a prose poem collage of narratives including a Barbados genealogy, a Passover seder and a film by Yvonne Rainer. She is interested in archives, hybrid forms, mythologies, ethnicity and innovation, the interdependence of experimental and conventional fiction, cinematic novels and ekphrastic writing. Bryant’s writing has appeared in Evening Will Come, Mandorla, Mixed Blood, in the ‘zine, Universal Remote: Meditations on the Absence of Michael Jackson and in the catalogues and solo shows of visual artists Laylah Ali, Jaime Cortez, Wura-Natasha Ogunji and Cauleen Smith. She is co-editor, with Ernest Hardy, of War Diaries, an anthology of black gay male desire and survival, from AIDS Project Los Angeles, which was nominated Best LGBTQ anthology by the LAMBDA Literary Awards. She is also co-editor/publisher of the hardcover cross-referenced literary/arts series, The Encyclopedia Project, which recently released Encyclopedia Vol. 2 F-K.


  • Review of Unexplained Presence by Marcella Durand in Poetry Project Newsletter #216
  • Review of Unexplained Presence by Tim Petersen in Boog City Review #55
  • Recordings of readings by Bryant at PennSound

Praise for Tisa Bryant

Through these savvy moments of framing and reframing, Bryant shows the act of description is never neutral but always informed by the ideological desire of the viewer and the presence of historical and cultural violence. The maneuver of supplying these films as documents of cultural evidence is only the first step. The emphasis of the book lies in the courageous public psychomachia that Bryant-as-viewer undergoes, how she is able to personally face these ugly spots in film history as symptoms of problems in our cultural history, acknowledge them, and then subvert their meaning through acts of recontextualization. This is simultaneously the bravest kind of cultural activism and the most essential act of psychic survival; everything from the viewer’s worldview to her sense of self is at stake. – Tim Petersen, Boog City Review #55

Fusing criticism, film theory, and fiction with a keenly poetic earear, Bryant reenters cultural artifacts to open up these symbolically loaded but structurally silenced or backgrounded characters and motifs. Her stories trace the ways in which black subjectivity is distributed or denied within pictures and plots, between viewers and artworks and artists, and in acts of conversation and debate, of queer identification or refusal to see. What is most remarkable is how Bryant transforms these elisions into acts of imagination, restoring or reconfiguring partially glimpsed subjects via fleet and surprising sentences that traverse the distance between representation and meaning. – San Francisco Bay Guardian

Like the great Edouard Glissant, her work is at once novel, essay and poetry, these modulations emerging and transmuting in a practice he calls ‘spiral retelling.’ Her work is buoyant with self-possession and political savvy yet tinged with the knowledge of knowledge as always possible and always incomplete. Her use of race, class, gender and sexuality in her work reinforces, in what dangerously presents itself as a post-feminist world, that the personal is political and vice versa. – Stacy Szymaszek

The language in Tisa Bryant’s book Unexplained Presence probes the threshold where silence customarily triumphs; instead of muteness, she discovers murmurs, folds, collisions, incongruities and nightmares. Bryant avoids explanation; in its place, she offers a slow, lyric unfolding. I like how ridged, difficult and compact her analysis is: veiled, yes, but also opalescent. Here’s a new, take-no-prisoners way of “doing” film criticism. – Wayne Koestenbaum

The (false) homeostasis formed on normative principles appear as a rather ludicrous stage when Bryant exposes with disarming lucidity the problematic of ascribed roles and base assumptions. She has managed to squeeze fractured narratives into a glowing foreground; she talks back and into authored shadows and peripheral energies. While doing so she infuses perception with a formidable feminist critique as well as she opens up space for queering language—her work offers an interrogation of heterosexuality and patriarchy and focuses on social relations rather than identity. – Brenda Iijima