Spoken Word Poetry Night


Poet and Warren Hills alumnus BJ Ward was one of two featured poets who read at the Spoken Word Poetry Night on April 27, the other being former Warren Hills teacher Edwin Romond. (Photo by Kevin Horn)

Thursday, April 27, students of Warren Hills, their parents, teachers, and other members of the community gathered in the library at 7 p.m. for a Spoken Word Poetry Night. 

The night opened with Warren Hills High School Library/Media Specialist Margaret Devine introducing one of the featured poets speaking, Edwin Romond. 

Romond is a former Warren Hills English teacher, author of eight collections of poetry, and has won numerous prizes and fellowships for his work. His poetry has been read on National Public Radio (NPR) twice. 

Romond read 7 poems from his most recent book, Man at the Railing- which received the 2022 Laura Boss Award- in chronological order: “Champion,”  “One Good Thing,” “Photo of Liam, Age 22,” “Amish Elementary School Massacre,” “Quiet Pasture,” “Flower for a Teacher,” and “Words.” Romond touched on themes including the swift passage of time, healing after tragedy, and gratitude.

When reading “Flower for a Teacher,” Romond spoke of the effects his sophomore year English teacher, Father Carlton, had on his formative writing years: “He didn’t yell, he didn’t insult us, he was demanding but never demeaning and he never let the specter of the S.A.T. get in the way of authentic learning.” The inspiration of Carlton led Romond to become the poem he is now, Romond said.

After Romond, the other featured poet and a former Warren Hills student who graduated in 1985,  BJ Ward, spoke. Ward has written four poetry books, including the most recent Jackleg Opera: Collected Poems 1990-2013, which received the Paterson Poetry Prize, and had his poems have been featured on NPR’s “The Writer’s Almanac,” in NJTV’s “State of the Arts,” on Poetry Daily, and in publications such as Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The New York Times, TriQuarterly, and The Sun. He has received a Pushcart Prize for Poetry and two Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and has numerous other writing and personal accomplishments.

Ward started off his reading with his poem “The Star Ledger,” followed by “Roy Orbison’s Last Three Notes,” “Bastards With Badges,” “Mythology in the Shoprite,” and lastly, “Upon Hearing that Baseball is Boring to America’s Youth (for Ed Romond).” Ward chose to read poems about events that took place in Washington.

After the two featured poets, students and teachers read poems on a variety of topics. 

Two students, Sexuality and Gender Alliance president junior Bailey Asbury and sophomore Echo Picone, chose to read poems they’d written in response to gun violence in schools, titled “Eulogy to Carmen Schentrap” and “When Will This End,” respectively.

“I want you to realize that of my ten years in school, I’ve never had a year without a lockdown,” Picone prefaced her reading, “and they never feel normal.”

Other readers were English teacher Andy Oakley and his wife, substitute teacher Suzanna Pinter, junior Tyrik Iman-Washington, English teacher Kevin Horn, substitute teacher Jeff Holtzmann, junior Josue Alvarez, sophomore Nate Chavez, junior Roisin McCluskey, myself (reading a poem “Students” by our very own English and Journalism teacher Mary Ann McKinney), assistant principal Glenn Barker, junior Joseph Mosca, parent Bridget Asbury, sophomore Shelia Bazelais, and Devine, with poems that moved between humorous, sad, and change-seeking, made more powerful through spoken word.