Local Poet Barbara DeCesare Talks About Poetry, Beer Pong, And Her Own Funeral
We recently had the pleasure of conducting an email interview with Barbara DeCesare, local poet from York, Pennsylvania. DeCesare is the author of two books of poetry (Jigsaweyesore and Silent Type) and has had work published in Delaware Poetry Review, DIAGRAM, Tarpaulin Sky, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Everyday Genius among other journals. She has also recorded an audio CD (adrift). DeCesare will be performing as a featured local poet at Poetry Aloud 2013 on September 6th.
1. How long have you been writing? What do you write?
I’ve always written. Before I could make letters I used to pretend to write. It seems like a very important skill. What I write is kind of a mystery. I hate to say I write poetry, but I guess I do. I write whatever I write and you’re free to call it whatever you care to call it.
2. Where are you from originally? What was the literary community like there, or where you went to school?
I grew up in Westminster, MD, a very nice community in general. I worked on my high school literary magazine and surrounded myself with moody unsupervised teenagers who I still love very much.
3. Talk a little about the literary community in York. How has it grown? What is exciting about it for you?
Not to congratulate myself, but one of the things I love about the York community is that the distance between York and Baltimore has gotten shorter. MD writers are making the trip north, and PA writers are increasingly invited to Maryland events. This was something I really hoped would happen out of the reading series I hosted at YorkArts, and it’s exciting to me. I also love that now all my friends pretty much know each other, so my funeral should be a great time for you all.
4. How would you like to see the literary communities in York, Lancaster, Harrisburg improve?
I can’t answer that. Communities create what they need. Supply and demand, my friend. If it’s not there it’s because not enough people want it. Oh wait! There is one thing! I’d love to see stronger relationships between the local colleges and the arts communities. I guess we can’t compete with beer pong so well.
5. Talk a little about the recording you have made of reading your poetry. Does the spoken sound of the words effect the way you write? Do you always write with reading aloud in mind?
There’s an unconscious music to how I write – to how we all write and speak, really. More and more the sound of the work is as valuable as the narrative or intellectual content and I find myself thinking of poetry as sculpture. I’m less self-conscious about performing sound work. I’ve been dying to get off the page and create something multi-sensory, so the recording work did that for me. Started it, rather. And the plays do that for me, too. It’s exciting to see new life in my lonely arty.
6. Who is your favorite poet of all time? Favorite local poet?
You’re kidding, right? Favorite poet of all time? Neruda? Um. All time. Jeez. I guess I may say Neruda. I love the life span of his poetry – from the political to the romantic to the necessary object. They’re all love poems in the end. And Ode to a Plum always makes me cry. My favorite local poets are Carol Clark Williams and Jeff Rath. They never, ever fail to surprise and challenge me. They are true to craft, diligent and precise. I love them personally, but if I’d never met them their work would reel me in.
7. Being a teacher, what are some fundamentals of writing that you teach to your students or workshop audiences?
Thanks for asking! It’s valuable to understand the mood associated with sound. I tell my student that each word needs to earn its place in the poem twice – once for meaning and once for sound. Cut what doesn’t meet that criterion. When you write fiction, you work like an army taking over the village, going house to house and getting names, confiscating weapons. You can luxuriate in description. In a poem, you send in your five best men to take out the leader. That’s it. Word economy. Bang.
8 .Tell us something interesting about York.
Shit. I dunno. York surrendered to the Confederate Army without a fight. How’s that?
9. Tell us something interesting about another writer in the area.
Are you asking me to gossip??? I will tell you this: York has had incredible poets laureate. We’ve been exceptionally blessed with our literary leaders. Every single one.