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Westchester County’s 
First Poet Laureate: BK Fischer

Westchester Poet Laureate BK Fischer (photo credit: Gina DeCaprio Vercesi)

BK Fischer of Sleepy Hollow believes that all poetry is dialogue—“a conduit not only for expression, but for collective energy, empathy and connection.” With these values in mind, she will help to amplify the voices in Westchester’s diverse communities during her two-year role as Westchester Poet Laureate. 

Westchester County Executive George Latimer and ArtsWestchester recently announced Fischer as the inaugural Poet Laureate after a panel of poets, writers and county representatives unanimously chose her for the position.  

According to Latimer: “Everybody agreed that Fischer…would be an advocate for passing the mic to the voices that we don’t get to hear as often in Westchester.” She was one of 23 applicants. The four other finalists were Robin Dellabough, Eric Odynocki, Loretta Oleck and Rachel M. Simon.

Fischer has proposed projects that revolve around hearing current experiences of “sheltering in place,” gathering poetry that speaks to the landscape of the Hudson Valley, showcasing the poetry of others throughout the County, and drawing together performers who combine spoken word with other artistic disciplines, like dance, music and visual art, in dynamic new ways. 

Fischer is the author of five books of poetry ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­and has been a teacher of poetry for more than 25 years. Her poems and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Boston Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, FIELD, Literary Mama, Modern Language Studies, Ninth Letter and other journals.

ArtsWestchester CEO Janet T. Langsam explains: “The concept of a Poet Laureate is an affirmation that, in our present-day society, words matter and that it is important that these words be truthful, poetic and emblematic of our principles and our aspirations.” 

Liars Hall of Fame by Westchester Poet Laureate BK Fischer

Jackalope. Pinocchio. Nixon. Thank you for coming. We’d love to but we have a lot on our plate. He couldn’t hurt a fly. The check’s in the mail. He didn’t see her the night of the murder. When they put the baby in your arms, you will know what to do. I can stop any time I want. This won’t hurt a bit. I’m five minutes away. Final closeout sale ends Saturday. Satisfaction guaranteed. It will change your life. Ponzi, Barnum, Gatsby, Iago (asterisk: insinuation). Münchausen. They’re no more addictive than coffee, tea, or Twinkies. I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally. I’m the last of the Romanovs. Coyote, Loki, Prometheus, Crow. Weapons of mass destruction. It’s going to disappear—one day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear. It’s a Vermeer. You look amazing. Of course I remember you. That makes a lot of sense. I’ve got the school nurse on the other line. I have read and understood the terms and conditions. The boy who cried wolf. Lance Armstrong. Saint Peter, three times before the rooster crowed. The 1919 White Sox. The Trojan Horse. No interest, no money down. Nobody could have known a thing like this could happen. He didn’t lay a hand on her. Let’s keep in touch. The worst is over. It will go away on its own. When she’s grown she won’t even remember.

(originally published in Ninth Letter, updated 2020)

Sheltering in Stanzas: An Evening of Poetry and the Arts
March 4, 7pm (via Zoom)

Remembering that “stanza” means “room,” Westchester poets will gather to speak to their experiences of poetry and art during the pandemic. In a time of isolation, these writers will share what’s “in the room” for them as they navigate this collective moment. The evening will feature poets from across the County, including Westchester Poet Laureate BK Fischer and Westchester Youth Poet Laureate Danielle Kohn.

Follow #westchesterpoetry for updates on the Westchester Poet Laureate and new poetry events along the way.

A version of this article first appeared in the February issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.

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