Praise for the Books Collected in Jackleg Opera
About Landing in New Jersey with Soft Hands:
“A new voice: welcome it. BJ Ward’s, with a new idiom, new accents, new rhythms. Speaking to and for a new generation…. This is where it’s at now, he says, and he’s right. Singing and squawking. It’s beautiful to hear, encouraging to see.”
About 17 Love Poems with No Despair:
“In the chaos of my library I have my top book shelf of about 30 books of contemporary poets that I find jumpstart me when I have trouble writing. This book is on there. Ward is part of my generation of poets (born at 1965 or after), but he has somehow fallen through the seams. He should be present in the canon forming anthologies but isn't. This is a shame…The honest and seemingly simple texture and metaphor of his poems offer us much to help us live our lives."
--Sean Thomas Dougherty
“A book, this book, made a difference in my life....17 of the most beautiful poems I have ever read....Fresh, engaging and straight from the heart, Mr. Ward’s poems sparkle brightly enough to grab the reader’s attention and keep it, offer insights at once profound and familiar, and initiate an exploration of love.”
(Hunterdon Democrat book review)
“17 Love Poems with No Despair resounds with the voice of a clear, powerful speaker. Ward does not naively deny despair but rather refuses it, making a case to the reader that proffers love as an antidote. This book is an offering of passion wrought with charm and poignancy. Always one is aware of the strength that is required to love long and well.”
About Gravedigger’s Birthday:
“In poems that both honor and transcend his blue collar roots, BJ Ward blends poignancy and humor with downright good story telling, and takes his place among the bright up-and-coming voices of his generation.”
“While Ward is particularly adept at evoking all manner of perilous male reticence (as well as the consolations of small moments and gestures within those granite silences), the whole of his vision, cast back on his past's beauty/ugliness, sufficiency/insufficiency, bespeaks a writer with the distance, grace, and humor necessary to sing the songs of his own particular rough and redeemable land.”
“BJ Ward writes noisy, aggressive, lovely poems full of heart and brawn. Gravedigger’s Birthday is a pleasure.”
About Jackleg Opera: New Poems:
“Ward knows about keeping the soul’s song alive against the things that hold down the sons of the world, including the sons who must forgive and the fathers who must reinvent themselves. These poems ache with the love of women, a delight in language, and a surety that self can be soldered out of the rebar and remnants of a closely observed internal landscape, one colored not so much with elegy, but “what might/ be called generosity.” These poems have a humor that can be owned only after close attention to pain, giving way to a kind of heroic grace.”
"BJ Ward's poems mend our relationship with, yes, masters like Shakespeare and Plato, et al, but also with ourselves. His work is always teaching, by which I mean both wrestling with exuberance and modeling it at the same time. That's no small feat."