By Shaileen B.
I rarely forget how powerful words can be, but if I ever did, I'd remember as soon as I ran into Tim Ward. Tim, a seemingly sturdy man with a big, deep voice, has made it to almost every one of the Pratt’s Poetry and Conversation readings, enlivening the Q&A with comments that are passionate and uncensored, like drafts of poems.
He also plunged with gusto into the free poetry-writing workshops that Towson University Professor Emerita Clarinda Harriss offered at the Pratt last April. When I saw him in the Fiction Department in May, we had not officially met, but I felt that I knew him. "It's you!" I said. "The Poet!"
Though he has always read voraciously and never stopped writing, I learned, Tim has written "seriously" only in recent years. In 2003, he retired from a long career as a cab driver. After losing a second job in 2009, he began frequenting open mics and poetry readings at an impressively long string of venues—not just the Pratt but also Minás Gallery, Poets in Preston at Preston Park, the Creative Alliance, the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, Evolver Baltimore, and Station North. In 2011, after losing his home and moving in with his brother, he returned to his writing with new zeal.
When he showed me some of his poems, I found them to be just like him—free, surprising, and bursting with natural music. Listen to this:
I want to be naked and beautiful in
The harsh light of a secondhand lamp in
My twenty-seventh apartment—you visited in
At times my dog visits
Where he has no home
A huge crane lifts the whole wheel
Out of the center of the Earth where the tireless people live—
They are digging more and deeper every day[...].
Tim, who describes himself as "full of love, laughter, and mad anger at injustice," sees writing as something that "allows me to kick over the bushel basket and send it helter-skelter spilling emotions into Albert's Universe. Unlike Albert [Einstein] I do not know what shall spill out..." He writes of "loneliness or hopeful simple domesticity” and dislikes “to be held to forms," though he did practice some in Clarinda Harriss's workshops: "She wanted a sonnet, I wrote one," something "ate it, so I wrote another quick, quick, quick, on the bus ride home."
Tapping Pratt’s librarians for recommendations, he reads deeply and widely and recently enjoyed Heather McHugh, Linda Gregg, William Carlos Williams, W. H. Auden, and Emily Dickinson. Among local poets, he admires E. Megg Magee and Fernando Quijano III.
It takes more than poetry to inspire a poet, though. Months after I greeted Tim by saying, "The Poet!" he told me that this greeting was what he needed to hear. Shortly before, he had performed his first public poetry reading, sharing "At Times My Dog Visits" at the Village Learning Place. A woman who attended the reading saw him somewhere else later and said, "You're the Poet." The similarity between my comment and this stranger's, Tim says, gave him faith in his work. It makes me happy to believe this, to believe that just two words—"The Poet"—can make a community: Tim, me, a nameless woman, and a dog who means something to all of us. Words! They do wonderful things.
Visit Tim on Facebook. Check out upcoming poetry programs at the Pratt.