A few years ago, I became a fan of BJ Ward, a college professor and writer from my local area who has published three books of poetry. What made me a fan was his work in Gravedigger's Birthday, which is reflective of his blue-collar upbringing in New Jersey. A person (especially in this area) can truly relate to his words for all their grit and sincere depiction of what his life is really like; there is no confectionery dusting to it.
I admire his work because in my own, I have trouble breaking through the barriers - saying in plain language what I need to say and describing the circumstances in jagged tones instead of glossing over. Not to say life's all doom and gloom; it's just not all pink and bubbly either.
If you're in the area, he'll be reading at The Pavillion at Nassau Square Park in West Winsor, NJ on Sunday, June 22, 2008 at 4:30 PM.
From Gravedigger's Birthday 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.