Getaway Reads: Two Poems by BJ Ward

This entry is part of Getaway Reads, a weekly e-mail series curated by Stephanie Cawley that features the writing of the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway faculty.

The Star-Ledger

by BJ Ward

287 was the long road to the newspaper plant
     my black-handed father would ride beneath
the weight of a night sky.
     A father who works the night shift
knows that weight, how it accumulates from within
     when his mistakes and debt
begin to press on his children and wife.
     And so went his life—
If the stars spelled something real,
     they might spell the equation
that my father never mastered—
     the news just ran through his hands
and what slid there left the black residue
     of the world’s doings, pressed knowledge
that read like misaligned tea leaves in his hardening palms,
     and in his life line and heart line and other lines
that would normally speak a fortune,
     the night just accumulated itself—
a little sky he would spread over us
     when the world redelivered him in the morning.


At the Party: “So What Do You Do?”

by BJ Ward

I say I’m an electrician
trying to connect the wires of the alphabet—
or a non-profit whiskey maker,
distilling to disquiet—
making myself giddy on sounds—
arranging a concert on the page
with a 26-piece band
the world is invited to—
or that Creation sometimes talks to me
and I try to build an ark of ink
that my fellow creatures
might find themselves in—
an admirable admiral animal—
I try to brew it
so that shock of pleasure
floats through it. 
© BJ Ward. Both poems found in Jackleg Opera: Collected Poems, 1990 to 2013, IO Poetry Series/North Atlantic Books, 2013.
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BJ Ward is the author of Jackleg Opera: Collected Poems, 1990 to 2013, published in September 2013, as part of the IO Poetry Series (North Atlantic Books). His other books are Gravedigger’s Birthday, 17 Love Poems with No Despair and Landing in New Jersey with Soft Hands. His poems have been featured on Poetry Daily, NPR’s “The Writer’s Almanac” and New Jersey Network’s “State of the Arts,” as well as in publications such as American Poetry Review, Poetry, TriQuarterly and Painted Bride Quarterly. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and two Distinguished Artist Fellowships from the NJ State Council on the Arts. He co-directs the Creative Writing degree program at Warren County Community College. To read some of Ward’s work visit the Poetry Foundation or last year’s Getaway Reads.

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Want to study with BJ Ward? At the 2014 Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway, BJ will lead the poetry portion of the Creative Writing Sampler and the Algonquin-Style Poetry Workshops.

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Advance your craft and energize your writing at the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway. Enjoy challenging and supportive sessions, insightful feedback and an encouraging community. Learn more. 

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