Collected Poems, 1990-2013
"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."
“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.”
BJ Ward, an award-winning poet whose poetry and essays have been featured on National Public Radio and in publications such as Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The Sun Magazine, TriQuarterly, The Literary Review, The Normal School, and the New York Times, has brought together in one volume poems from over a twenty year span. A rich collection of thoughtful and often ironic reflections that reveal both the reverence and irreverence of human experience, Jackleg Opera contains the material from his three previous books as well as thirty-five new poems.
Jackleg Opera: #3 on the list of Top Ten Books by New Jersey Authors in 2014
The Star-Ledger, "The Very Best from NJ Authors in 2014" (December 28, 2014)
"Do your soul some good, read a poem — more specifically, read some of BJ Ward’s poems.... He should be feted because he is that good and that accessible.... (F)or anyone who thinks poetry is too remote, or can only be recited in couplets by men in pantaloons, this is the book to read. It’s as modern and real as New Jersey, and if poets received a fraction of the attention and applause they should, BJ Ward would be famous."
Jacqueline Cutler, The Star-Ledger (March 23, 2014)
"Sometimes opening a book is like taking a deep breath of unexpected fresh air. I opened up JACKLEG OPERA and out stepped BJ Ward, maybe the best poet you've never heard of."
Michael Dennis, Today's Book of Poetry (June 30, 2014)
"Collecting all the poems BJ Ward has published between 1990 and 2013, Jackleg Opera presents this award-winning poet’s sonically driven work from three previous collections. There is a jangly, propulsive music here that makes the best of these poems surprising yet somehow inevitable. Ward manages to write formal poetry that doesn’t sound stodgy. His work retains an energy through derivations and variations from tradition."
Body (Poetry * Prose * Words)-- Summer Reads (May 30, 2014)
"BJ Ward’s poem, 'Daily Grind,' shows American Shakespeare at its best. Ward imagines a man who 'awakes every morning / and instead of reading the newspaper / reads Act V of Othello.' It’s a domestication that both literalizes and transforms Emily Dickinson’s distilled quintessence of American Shakespeare, 'Drama’s Vitallest Expression Is the Common Day' (included in the collection). Where Dickinson asserts that ordinary life is superior to Shakespeare, makes his words, on some level, superfluous, Ward says: Ordinary life makes his words essential. In America, Shakespeare is the vitallest expression of the common drama.
Noah Millman, The New York Times (reviewing the Library of America anthology, Shakespeare in America [edited by James Shapiro]) (May 29, 2014)
"Full of literary and Jersey allusions, Ward builds more than “just a ramshackle theater/ on the edge of a city of ruins”; he knows about keeping the soul’s song alive against the things that hold down the sons of the world.... Ward writes that he “was out of [his] body with giving” and he does so in these poems with a humor that can be owned only after close attention to pain, giving way in these poems to a kind of heroic grace."
Laura McCullough, MEAD: The Magazine of Literature and Libations