Meet Westchester’s Poet Laureate, B.K. Fischer

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B.K. Fischer. Photo by Gina DiCaprio Vercesi.

In January, Westchester County and Arts Westchester named B.K. Fischer Westchester County’s inaugural Poet Laureate. In honor of National Poetry Month, The North Salem Post sat down with B.K. to learn more about her work and the role that poetry can play in communities and culture. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What was your first thought upon learning that you had been named Westchester’s inaugural Poet Laureate?

Fischer: There are a lot of poets floating around so it’s fun and exciting to be the one chosen to serve. My first thought upon hearing that it was me...I was eager, but nervous about creating programs that would be good for the whole county. I thought about how I could reach more people, what I could do with my teaching and editing that would really speak to people, and maybe people who weren’t already fans of poetry.

Q: How would you describe your own poetic style?

Fischer: My published writing has mostly been lyric poetry in sequences to create novels in verse. My poems are definitely meant to be read as a kind of stand-alone story. They’re not really performance pieces.

Q: Amanda Gorman seemed to bring poetry into the mainstream this year, both at President Biden’s Inauguration and then at the Super Bowl. Do you think poetry is having a moment?

Fischer: I do feel like poetry is having a moment. Amanda Gorman tapped into that sense of collective hope we were all feeling. Poetry has always been there, and to see it from a young woman of color who really represented what was new, I thought that was really exciting. She was the right voice for that moment.

Q: What do you want to accomplish in your role as Poet Laureate?

Fischer: I want to include more voices who have been left out of the conversation – underserved populations of students, incarcerated writers, and other people whose voices aren’t typically brought into the conversation about literature in Westchester. I want my time to be more inclusive and to give a space for other writers to be heard.

Q: How do you respond to people who say that poetry is hard to understand?

Fischer: I would say, ‘how do you understand that song you just heard on the radio?’ You don’t understand a song; you experience it, you feel it. Maybe it touches your heart strings or makes you remember a loss. Poetry is also an experience. Poetry can be very complex but that doesn’t mean that your experience has to be one where you can paraphrase what’s going on. I think that would be impossible anyway.

Q: How would you describe the experience of reading poetry?

Fischer: Poetry tends to be dense. It’s like eating one very rich chocolate. Maybe you don’t want to eat seven in a row.

Our lives are so fast-paced and we’re used to scrolling so fast through our news feeds. Poetry requires slowing down and letting the dust settle and the words appear.

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An excerpt of a poem from B.K.'s first book of poetry, St. Rage's Vault, a collection of poems about mothering and the experience of having children:

Week 30 (Maternity Bathing Suit)

Forget those gilded mamas,

she’s a magic marker Venus de Milo

at the open swim, a cellulite bird

of blub and doodles full of words,

A-E-I-O-U and growing

a varicose cosmos

of pantihoseless possibility,

up to her anatomy in irregular stars,

her daisy-decal polka-dot

pliant bingo bottom buoyant enough

to balance an elephantine arabesque

off the ladder, smile

at mister-smug-one shrunk

in his trunks in front of

her flagrant magenta bellyful

of flutter kicks—O shaky bravura—

and drop, splashless,

into water over her head.

(from St. Rage’s Vault, The Word Works, 2013)

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