Monday, March 30, 2020

Jayne Relaford Brown Poetry Reading Online On Zoom!

Join Us For A Virtual Poetry Reading!

April 2020 marks 22 years of Berks Bards' commitment to fostering poetry in Berks County! Annually in April, we celebrate National Poetry Month by holding Bard Fest, a series of poetry performances, open mics, workshops, and more! This year, we'd love to continue the tradition of celebrating Bard Fest in a new and modern way. In support of efforts to diminish the spread of COVID-19, we'll be hosting and sharing poetry virtually.
Join us on Zoom on April 9th, 2020 at 6 PM EST for a poetry reading by Berks County's Poet Laureate, Jayne Relaford Brown.

Jayne Relaford Brown is the author of My First Real Tree, a book of poems from FootHills Publications. Her poems have appeared in several literary journals and anthologies including BluelineCider Press Review and Alligator Juniper, and All We Know of Pleasure, and as the title poem in I Am Becoming the Woman I’ve Wanted. Her poem, “Finding Her Here,” has been widely distributed as a poster, translated into Mandarin and Russian, and was commissioned as a choral work by Anna Crusis Women’s Chorus.  Her poem “Ode to Hip-Hop” recently became a national finalist for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize. Brown received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing/Poetry from San Diego State University, and taught college-level creative writing and composition full time until retiring from Penn State Berks in 2018. She is the current Poet Laureate of Berks County, Pennsylvania, and will hold the post until 2021.

Read a sample poem below:

All that longing caught between my knees—
to hold with my whole body, and release
the deep unspeakable of joy and grief,
not a lark transcending life in double-octave flight
toward a sound so high we strain to hear,
but here on earth, rib on ribs, the wood and flesh
vibrato of a rougher chest voice waking up the heart,
a trembling call for all that’s cavernous to hum.

All I want is one long note, to pull the bow across
the tautened nerve sustained enough to touch
a tenor deeper than my puny words can reach.
And even with my heavy hand that makes the strung hairs
growl like guttered clearing of the throat, even the ragged tremolo
of clumsy fingers struggling on heavy strings
is part of saying, “Here, here’s the hollow place,
the pulsing emptiness from which the beauty pours.”

Published in Alligator Juniper

Here's how to join us & Jayne Relaford Brown online on April 9th:
  • Go to
  •  If required, please enter the Meeting ID 759 062 6042
  • You may download Zoom on your mobile device, or join from your browser on your laptop/computer
  • As a courtesy, please mute your microphone when not speaking.
Thank you for your continued support of Berks Bards! We hope to see you there!

Your friends at Berks Bards

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Sunday, March 29 — A Reflective Poetry Workshop: Hindsight is 2020 at Barrio Alegría.

Through Pen Street: City of Poems, a community project funded by the Berks County Community Foundation, Barrio Alegría is offering a reflective poetry workshop in late March.

Hindsight is 2020: A Poetry Workshop 
Taught by Joshua Surita

Date & Time: Sunday, March 29 from 4-6 pm
Location: Barrio Alegría @ 140 North 5th Street, 2nd Floor, Reading, PA 19601
Details: Open to all ages; free with donations welcome

See more information about this event on Facebook. Also, see Barrio Alegría on Instagram.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Well-Versed: A Collaboration Between Art Plus Gallery in West Reading & Berks Bards.

Last Friday, Art Plus Gallery in West Reading hosted its opening for an exhibit called Art Well-Versed. This came together as a project of the gallery collaborating with Berks Bards through a recent call for submissions we offered, partnering as Berks County-based nonprofits.

The call for submissions involved having folks visit to pick pieces of art to write poems about for this collaboration, pairing one finalized poem with each piece of art. Some artists wrote poems about their own art, while a good number of poets who had no ties to the art brought their imaginations and inspiration to the page based on what it stirred in them, upon seeing the pieces.

A total of 20 local poets contributed, and the exhibit opening celebrated the poetry with a reading by many of the poets sharing their penned words in-person. Dozens of  people filtered throughout the gallery's space to enjoy the whims of words and local art on display by so many talented artists in our region.

Stop into the gallery soon to see this exhibit!


Wednesdays-Saturdays: 12 pm - 7 pm
Sundays: 11 am - 4 pm
Closed Monday & Tuesdays

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Join the KU Poetry All-Stars at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts March 5th, 2020 at 6 pm

Berks Bards welcomes the KU Poetry All-Stars, which began with a twist...

President of Berks Bards, Jennifer Hetrick, reached out to Khalid to perform in the March 5th Berks Bards Showcase he knew that he could not simply perform by himself, so he reached out to fellow seniors Britney Hewitt and Sterling McKee to headline the event with him. Then months later he connected with (Junior) Marshae Batchelor, (Freshmen) Elijah Ibrahim, and (Freshmen) MyRee Ford to perform as well. This was the birth of the KU Poetry All-Stars, and they are now ready to bring the soul of poetry back into everyone's heart on Thursday, March 5th, so get ready for a star-studded event!

Join us at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts to hear their selected poetry. Following their reading, we'll allow ANYONE to step up to the mic and read what moves them.

When: March 5th, 2020 at 6 pm

Where: GoggleWorks Center for the Arts

201 Washington Street Reading PA 19601 Studio 238

Read Khalid Akeel-Guiden's Bio below:

Khalid Akeel-Guiden is a poetry journeyman. Though, not in the traditional sense of miles logged performing or competing, but in the poetry genres he has dabbled in. The Kutztown University senior started his poetry journey in the spring of 2017, while taking time a leave of absence from Kutztown University. The reason Khalid first took that initial step to put ink to paper was to help mend the heart of a good friend who had recently gone through a tumultuous breakup. From that experience, he noticed the healing that poetry offered the reader and the writer. This gravitated the college dropout, who was still searching for his purpose, to realize that his destiny was much greater than his current circumstances. That fall, 2017, he returned to Kutztown University after a 4-year hiatus. In his return, he transitioned from the written beauty of poetry to the oratorical captivation of spoken word poetry. The first poetry piece that Khalid performed for an audience came in October of 2017, “Black Worth,” where he mesmerized the crowd with the power of his tongue. Khalid’s gift of speech breathed life into his words that previously only existed on paper, and from that moment he knew that poetry offered more than healing, but salvation from suffering, connection to complete strangers, and freedom from the pain of the past. That salvation, connection, and freedom came into full effect in the Spring of 2018. The matriarch of his family, his beautiful grandmother, Evelyn Alston had passed away after years of fighting the devastating disease of cancer. Before her passing, Khalid wrote his most powerful poem, “The Black Girl.”

                To the black girl with skin so dark that all light is consumed within her melanin
                Did you know that no light can escape a black hole,
                they say it has a gravitational pull that sucks in all beauty
                Isn't that the same conceptualization of the dark pigmented black girl,
                That she's void of all beauty
                But what they didn't tell you,
                is that all light is attracted to the black girl.
                It is all beauty that radiates from the black girl.
                As she bends and consumes all light around her,
                The black girl manifests the immaculate image of God herself
                And time itself has to stop when the black girl breathes
                As she controls everything in her vicinity
                So to the black girl with skin so dark that all light is consumed within her melanin
                I thank you,
                You are a true blessing

That poem would give his family the healing that they so desired and needed.

Within the next year, Khalid took another leap in his poetry journey where he transitioned to lyric poetry. Lyric poetry infuses the art of poetry with a musical accompaniment. His first performance in this new genre came in the Spring of 2019, where he adapted the “The Black Girl” into a 4-minute lyric poem to the accompaniment of Maxwell’s Fortunate. He debuted the “The Black Girl’s Magic” at Catwalk Cartel’s (Kutztown University Modeling Troupe) Spring Fashion Show where the Black female models walked the runway to his poem.

Read Britney Hewitt's Bio below:

Britney Hewitt is a Jamaican Born immigrant, who came here at the age of 1 with her family to the US. Living in Queens, NY. She was an only child until the age of 6, then she was blessed with a beautiful little sister to which she had written songs about begging to have. This is where her original passion for writing began. Moving to Pennsylvania at the age of 12 Britney faced another culture shock and faced different forms of adversity throughout her life. Volleyball became something that she could also indulge her craft into. She played for ESU and did track for them her freshman year, then transferred over to Kutztown University where she currently resides until her pending graduation in Fall 2020. One thing that Britney has learned throughout the years is that life is what you make it, and yes it is easy to say, and most will say it is hard to do. She prides herself in being able to deconstruct her own self, in order to construct the life in which she wishes to live. Free Bee is her Writer tag, symbolizing the Bees which are vital for our existence, but are feared by so many. Bees attract to things that are sweet, and those that are free sustain life without the constraints of society trying to kill them. Poetry is not the only writing that defines her, she has written stories that she wishes to turn into movies, and other forms of writing. This is just the beginning for her, but everyday is the beginning of a new story it all depends on each breath you take and every careful move that we each make. 

Below is a sample poem by Free Bee:

Set In My Ways

Set in my ways.
Stuck in my path.
Only time can tell what I can do,
To be true to you and myself.
To live the life I am free to live.
No care in the world.
No gates to close me in.
I am stuck in my ways...

But I have one foot out.

Read Sterling McKee's Bio below:

Sterling McKee is a spoken word poet from Coatesville, Sterling McKee is studying communications and media at Kutztown University. This spring, he'll be a first-generation college graduate. On campus, he's been a part of financial aid and community assistance work. He's also involved with marketing efforts through the Lehigh Valley-based nonprofit known as the Haydenfilms Institute; it is geared toward connecting and supporting student filmmakers in their drive to make an indelible impact in today's world.

Below is a sample poem by Sterling McKee:

Mátame (a live performance piece)
By Sterling McKee

I'm not as strong as I thought I was.
I am a corpse navigating the world in a 
flesh suit.
A symphony of hypocrisy and 
A parade of hidden secrets 
I guard them as the angel Guards Eden.

I sink into the abyss of my insecurities.
Gasping for air, but I am drowning...
Is this how I am going to die?
Enslaved in my mind...
I do not know how... how to breathe...
The air tastes of embalming fluid.

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Friday, January 3, 2020

Join Rick Kearns at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts February 6th, 2020 at 6 pm

Berks Bards welcomes Rick Kearns to join us at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts to read selected poetry. Following his reading, we'll allow ANYONE to step up to the mic and read what moves them.

When: February 6th, 2020 at 6 pm

Where: GoggleWorks Center for the Arts

201 Washington Street Reading PA 19601 Studio 238

Read Rick Kearns' Bio below:

Rick Kearns (aka Kearns-Morales) is a poet of Puerto Rican and European heritage from Harrisburg, Pa.  His latest full collection was Rufino's Secret, 2012. Other books include Street of Knives, The Dead Go Swimming and five other collections. His poems have appeared in over 70 literary journals and 6 national anthologies including The Massachusetts Review, The Painted Bride Quarterly and Chicago Review. Some of his work has appeared in European and Latin American journals as well. He was named Poet Laureate of Harrisburg, Pa in 2014.

Below is a sample poem from our featured poet:

The Moon Rides a Black Horse               
(for Lorca) 
The moon is
riding along
the shore
thinking violins
and howling wolves,
the moon is 
riding a black horse,
looking for a widow
who sings
the deep song
llanto of  the unforgiving sea,
buleria of
smokestacks and
The moon 
wants a good
red wine
and a woman 

who can dance. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Join Bri Tyson at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts January 2nd, 2020 at 6 pm

Berks Bards welcomes Bri Tyson to join us at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts to read selected poetry. Following his reading, we'll allow ANYONE to step up to the mic and read what moves them.

When: January 2nd, 2020 at 6 pm

Where: GoggleWorks Center for the Arts

201 Washington Street Reading PA 19601

Read Bri Tyson's Bio below:

Bri Tyson is a 26 year-old poet who has been writing since her early days. Born and raised in the Keystone State, she grew up believing family and friends are the key to life. Her involvement in her community has continued to nourish her writing, however, her poetry reflects a lover's discourse. Bri is a co-host of Dear RDG, a City of Reading-based podcast which focuses on providing a spotlight on local talent and national news. She is also a member of Berks NAACP Chapter and a member of Barrio Alegria, a community development organization. And she serves on the committee for the Berks County Poet Laureate and the Berks Scholastic Poet Laureate based at Reading Area Community College. Bri is also a city ambassador for No Black Girl Left Behind (NBGLB), an organization that work to establish bonds between Black women in her community. Her writing has been published on two popular sites and Bri is a blogger for 

Below is a sample poem from our featured poet:


My Mother’s Womb

Produced a Beautiful Babygirl 

That wore ribbons around her head 

Identification for the world 

She grew

And locked her locs

Common place in her community 

Beads in her constant companion 

Until her maturity 

She grew

Straighten strands

Rounding out her education 

Heated tools and creams 

Relaxing the world’s impatience

Life is such a trial

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Join Jazer Willis at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts December 5th 2019 at 6 pm

Berks Bards welcomes Jazer Willis to join us at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts to read selected poetry. Following his reading, we'll allow ANYONE to step up to the mic and read what moves them.

When: December 5th 2019 at 6 pm

Where: GoggleWorks Center for the Arts Studio 238

201 Washington Street Reading PA 19601

Read Jazer Willis' Bio below:

Jazer Willis is a Black, Afro Sensitive and Christ centered speaker, appreciative of the arts and nationally recognized poet. Jazer is currently pursuing his BA in political science with a focus in religious studies as it relates to how the world works, at Albright College in Reading, PA. Willis's work concentrates on his own identity and what seems to affect it, as a young, African American - Christian man. Jazer speaks on race, faith, social justice, love of self, celebration of life - channeling familiar memories, overcoming adversity, and creating a periscope into what it means to be present and still surviving.

“As a rising poet, I was mentored by some of the most gifted writers”, Willis said. Jazer honed in on his writing skill by being apart of Philadelphia’s poetry collective, Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM) at the start of 2016. Jazer has read poetry, “slammed” poetry and given speeches in various cities and gatherings. Including, numerous competitions at Brave New Voices, featuring in social hubs such as The Union League of Philadelphia, and Chicago’s Christian - oriented, Poets In Autumn Spoken Word Show, Storytellers.

Below is a sample poem from our featured poet:


An ode to my mouth, from my feet - discussing my anointing.
Why you so loud for?
I hear God called you to preach
You must think you better than your pastor
Think you better than Jesus
You think you can walk in his shoes and not be bruised?
Say the things he says and  get away with it?
Like the devil ain’t listening
Like this valley don’t got shadows
and a voice  worth listening to
We gon’ have to walk
Until what you say catches to what you do
Understand that purpose is worth the pain
fervency is full of fatigue
And the Lord who is word from the beginning
has grace enough to be an alabaster
Open himself
ready of oil
Spilling over with truth in scripture
To prepare you.

Watch Jazer Willis perform "White Lie" at the 19th Annual Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival

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