McBride brings music, food, and life to poetry

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First Posted: 7/8/2014

Bernadette McBride has always loved poetry – though she can partially owe that to another form of art: music.

The former Poet Laureate of Bucks County has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, was second-place winner of the international Ray Bradbury writing award, and both a finalist and runner-up for the Robert Fraser poetry prize – and she’ll bring her enormous talent to the latest Writers Showcase at The Vintage on July 12, along with four other local featured readers.

McBride, who directs a monthly reading series at Farley’s Bookshop in New Hope and teaches writing and literature at Bucks County Community College, chatted with the Weekender about her love of the art and what attendees can expect at this month’s showcase.

WEEKENDER: What draws you to this particular writing form?

BERNADETTE MCBRIDE: I’ve always loved poetry – reading, listening to, and writing it since I was a child. Over the years, I’ve crystallized a few reasons as to why poetry speaks so deeply to me. One is the music of it (I come from a family of musicians and singers), and I love observing the various meters of language. Another is the layers in poems that invite the reader to explore meaning, and, tied to that, poetry’s ability to convey big ideas in compact language, shrinking the expression of meaning to the sparest of words and phrasing. I find working on a poem, in addition to the many rewards that come with completing what I hope is a work of art, is also just plain fun.

W: How would you describe your poetry? Do you stick to one style or subject, or is it varied?

BM: I tend to write in a balance of narrative and lyricism in, generally, free verse, but am very attentive to internal rhyme, rhythm, precise language, and tight focus. My specific subjects vary, but there are consistent elements that always seem to show up, such as a focus on inner life, observations of stages of life (sometimes with a bit of humor), and ekphrastic writing; that is, writing about great works of art.

W: Where does your inspiration come from?

BM: Like most creative writers, I gain inspiration from a variety of sources. For example, I might notice some event on my way to work that stays with me and turns into a jumping-off point for a poem, or an interesting phrase lands on me out of the universe of ideas and grows into a poem. And, of course, life events, both profound and quotidian. I’m also involved in poetry workshops, and the themes and exercises in those settings stretch me in directions I might not otherwise explore.

W: You have “Food, Wine, and Other Essential Considerations—an Alphabet” coming out in September. What is that collection about?

BM: Though the topic is food and libations, as a poet I need those layers I mentioned and broader meaning to justify the topic. So, though some of the poems have a specific food as the center (one, for example, on the delights of garlic), most are based on the importance of food in our lives – the kitchen gatherings of family and friends, holidays, holy days, and other important events that become cellular memories connected to the meals we share.

W: What works can readers expect to hear from you at the Writers Showcase in Scranton?

BM: I’ll be reading from the food book as well as my current book, “Waiting for the Light to Change,” along with some new poems. And, thanks to (hosts) Brian Fanelli and Jason Lucarelli, I’m looking forward to visiting Scranton again – I haven’t been there in several years.

Other writers for the night include Scranton native Byrne Lewis, whose poems have appeared in Janus Head: A Journal of Philosophy and Art, The Anglican Theological Journal, and The Penwood Review. In 2010, her poem “Conjoined” won first prize in the “Love at the Mutter” poetry contest in Philadelphia. Dunmore native Paul Capoccia was also selected as a Scranton Times-Tribune Scholastic Superstar for the class of 2012. He currently attends Marywood University where he is working toward a bachelor’s degree in English with minors of writing and mathematics. Charlotte Lewis, of Scranton, has frequented poetry readings in the area for the past nine years, helped host the Anthology New and Used Books poetry reading, and now hosts her own reading, Kick Out the Bottom, every last Friday of the month at Embassy Vinyl. Eric Wilson is the president of the newly founded SwanDive Publishing Company.