Q&A with poet Barbara DeCesare


Barbara DeCesare hails from Dallastown, Pa., in York County, and will read next Wednesday at Dreamers Poetry in Frederick. She has had poems published in more than 45 journals, including The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Birmingham Poetry Review, River Styx and Gargoyle, and she's been featured at hundreds of venues including the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, The New School in New York City and The Baltimore Museum of Art. "Barbara is a poetry icon in Baltimore, and York," said Dreamers Poetry host Daniel Armstrong, "and she's not even 40."

Q: Do you have any idea what you'll read in Frederick?

A: Nope. And I won't know until I get there. I like to see what kind of mood my audience is in. I tend to read more upbeat stuff, more performance-type work. Lately I've been bringing scripts of these plays I write and I get the audience to give impromptu performances.

Q: Have you ever read here before?

A: Yes, I was there once before in 2006 I think.

Q: What do you think about making writing a full-time career -- is this something you'd like to do, or would you rather work as a paralegal, assuming you still do?

A: I have a full-time job with the government. It affords me a lot of flexibility and, of course, pay. I was a teenaged mom, and now I have three teenaged kids, one in college, so there's never been a point in my life where I could take a big financial risk and strike it out as a freelancer or quit my job to write a novel.

Still, I've had a lot of luck as a writer. My first book was adapted for stage in New York back in 2005, my books have been required reading in the creative writing programs of several colleges on the east coast, I'm invited to give workshops and readings alongside writers I studied in college, I've been published in numerous journals, a story I wrote was made into a very cool short film, and I get a royalty check every year from Australia for something they use on a TV show (I don't know what it is, really).

I report this success out of insecurity, since naturally I'd love to make a living as a writer. There have only been two months of my life where I made more money as a writer than at my regular job. I'm grateful for the literary successes I've had. I suppose if there's a time for me to quit my job and be a full-time writer, that'll be pretty sweet. But I'm not holding my breath. It's my own damn fault for not marrying rich.

Q: What do you do when you get writer's block (again, assuming you do)?

A: I have specific requirements for writing (silence, for one), so it's something I don't get to do as often as I'd like. I have a notebook overflowing with stuff I need to work on. I don't need inspiration as much as I need time.

Q: What's your favorite genre, publication or writer to read?

A: I read The New Yorker, Harpers, scientific studies and findings, court transcripts, "Butler's Lives of the Saints," autopsy reports, kind of anything. I particularly love law and science. Right now I'm reading the novel "CRUDDY" by Lynda Barry and listening to Capote's "In Cold Blood" in the car.

Q: Are you working on another book?

A: I'm never working on a book, really. Just writing. If there's a book at the end, that's great. I have a deal to make a book with Furniture Press next year, but right now it's just one foot in front of the other. When I have a big fat body of work, I cull it for a theme and work with that. To be honest, I owe a lot to Joe Natoli, Jason Rubal and Jennifer Hill, who edited each of on my three collections and guided the work into shape.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being the 98 Rock Poet Laureate?

A: I haven't been on the air since (Bob) Lopez died in 2002. It was a blast, but I stopped going out there after judging bare knockers one morning. I insulted a major show sponsor to his face while we were on air. Then on the way home I thought that judging those boobs was probably not going to advance my writing career. Soon after I moved to (Pennsylvania) and that was that, though I did do one show with Kirk and Mark at their new station. No boobs there.

Q: What's one thing you'd tell people, if they'd listen, about poetry that you don't think they know?

A: Check it out! Poetry got me a sweet gig judging BOOBS! How bad can it be? Or ... a poem is the best part of any novel. It's a straight shot, right where you need it most. I promise.

What: Poetry reading featuring Barbara DeCesare and Cliff Lynn (open reading afterwards)

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10

Where: Frederick Coffee Company, 100 N. East St., Frederick

Information: 301-698-0039, fredcoffeeco@msn.com, www.fredcoffeeco.com, or contact event organizer Daniel Armstrong at dreamerspoetry@yahoo.com.

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