Washington Public Library Hosts Poet BJ Ward


BJ Ward reads to the audience from his book, Jackleg Opera, a collection of his poems from 1990 to 2013. (Photo by Eileen Chen)

Eileen Chen, Staff Reporter

The Washington Public Library hosted local poet BJ Ward to celebrate National Poetry Month with a reading, signing and Q&A session in mid-April.

Ward, a professor at Warren County Community College has received many awards, both as an educator and poet. He was born in Union, New Jersey and raised in Washington, New Jersey. He is also a graduate of Warren Hills High School, class of 1985.

Throughout the event, Ward shared many of his experiences, memories, and words of wisdom through his poems.

Many of his works have a background associated to Washington because of his childhood. Not only are his works interconnected with his adolescent years, but also his family life.

“A lot of the poems are related to here because I grew up here,” Ward said.  “If you read the third book, it’s called Gravedigger’s Birthday, from the beginning to the end, it tells a story of a story of a family that is a lot like how my family was.”

Ward read, “A bottle was never more tyrannous then when smashed against the wall behind my mother. She left him, taking us with her and for five nights we slept in the rotting frame of her Chevy Impala shipwrecked on the dark shore of the Acme parking lot.”

As he finished reading, Ward responded to an audience member who asked about his family and personal life.

“Outside the birth of my son, the most profound pleasure I’ve ever had is forgiving my father,” Ward said.

Ward also mentioned a person in his book that is based off a real person.

“There’s a character in here named Bradford, who’s a lovable curmudgeon,” Ward said. “He’s quite the character and he’s also my best friend.”

“Now Bradford says to me, ‘All cops are bastards with badges,’ some acid laced with vanilla truth,” Ward read.

Ward read one of his poems alluding to a former place in town and the high school.

“At Warren Hills High School, of which I’m a proud graduate, people asked me, ‘Have you yet to learn Greek mythology?’ and I didn’t understand what relevance it had to my life and modern day New Jersey. And then I went into the ShopRite,” Ward said

“This is called Mythology in the ShopRite. Not having a boat or a whimsical chorus of Greek gods, I am forced to live most of my Homeric epics at the Shop Rite in Washington, New Jersey. So it was a moment of moral significance when my Wise Bravos restaurant-style tortilla chips scanned at a dollar fifty instead of the sale price of 99 cents,” Ward read.

Ward shared advice that he has told others in his classes as a professor at the community college.

“One thing I tell my students is, ‘Sometimes you can’t tell the literal truth directly because it’s too much for a poem to bear,’” Ward said.

He read to the audience his last poem in his collection and spoke about the advantage to publishing a collection of poems.

“One of the great things about having a collection of poems is I can add a poem that should have been in the book to the end of that manuscript,” he said, “even if I didn’t write it until ten years after the book came out.”

Ward continues to write poetry and publish them. More information can be found online at www.bj-ward.com.