The PK Featured Poet 20 – Sherry Pasquarello



"I get my ideas from watching people or hearing a word or two, maybe in a conversation or a song will jog a memory loose.  It may be something written in a newspaper a billboard, whatever. I scribble it down on a piece of paper. I carry a small notepad in my purse and I have pads of paper all over the house. mainly to write myself notes so I won't forget to do something but also for the words and thoughts that pop up at any time." - Sherry Pasquarello



Sherry's poetry records life and incidents.   Much of what she writes is observational and personal, but Sherry makes this personal viewpoint universal through poetry which is evocative and inclusive.  She presents her view of the world in a way which helps to bring insights into our own.  Sherry recently became an administrator for the PK Poetry List, where she has been a member for many years and where I have long been an admirer of her poetry.  It is a great pleasure for me to introduce this closer look at her poetry life and work.   (Jim Bennett)


Featured Poet 20 Sherry Pasquarello


Can you tell us something about yourself?


I'm 55 years old. born and raised in the Pittsburgh area. I think I learned even as a toddler to watch and gauge people because I spent quite some time in hospitals. Who was coming to comfort or to hurt depending on tone of voice and body language. I became an observer though out my childhood and I also read quite a lot. I can not remember a time that I did not want to write. Well, except for the usual little girl "want to be a ballerina" stage.


How and when did you start writing?


I started writing in grade school. I started poetry in jr. high school when I found out that poetry was more than just the classics that we were required to learn. I developed a greater feeling for those later. at the time they just made me want to throw the textbook against a wall.  In high school I really began to write seriously. I was spending a lot of time in the city and Pittsburgh is pretty much loaded with colleges. I had friends that went to many of them and they took some of my stuff to different teachers for them to read.   They liked my poem and were surprised that they were written by a 16 year old girl. sort of raw and knowing for a kid I guess.  Their reactions made me feel more confidant but I would have continued even if they had trashed me.  I just would have never shown anyone else ever again.

Are there any other writers in your family?


No no one else before me tho my nephew is taking some courses in creative writing and i think he shows talent.


Did your family encourage you to write?


No I was never encouraged to write. I come from a pretty traditional home. My grandparents were Italian immigrants and even tho they became very American they still had no ambitions for me, I think, beyond wife and mother. Pittsburgh has always had the reputation of being 10 years behind the times and I was caught with 1 foot in the 60's movements and the other in a 50's sort of time warp. I had to dig in my heels to continue to write and even now I have gotten some puzzled looks from some when I say that I am a poet.


Was there anything that particularly drove you to write?


I've had depression since grade school and I know myself well enough to know that my poems would never have seen the light of day after that. I write because I have to. I hope that makes some sense.  I try to write poems that readers can see through their reality, their experience, personalize them.


Where there any particular influences on you as a writer?


When I was in grade school I read "The Lady Or The Tiger" by Stockton. It has stayed with me to this day.   So I'd much rather each reader put themselves into my poems, get their own feeling from them.   I aim for feelings, emotions, memories, much more that a specific form. there are forms in poetry that I love. that I read for my pleasure but I don't care to try to write in.   Life is short, even if it seems long. there are too many things that have to be, must be done.   I don't want my writing of poetry to be cut to fit.   Some enjoy the exercise. I just end up feeling tired and "less than."   I am so happy that poetry keeps evolving, changing, becoming. there is something for everyone and my hope is that everyone will find it for themselves and take it into themselves.


 Do you have any particular writers that you enjoy reading?


tThere are so, so many. Robert Gibb is a big one and Bukowski. That throws a lot of people, as if a woman can not find anything in Bukowski's writings.  I enjoy finding books like "The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry" while wandering the local half priced book store. That book has been a favorite for the past few years.   I also love all of the different styles of the poets of the PK list, they are varied and so free and yet so personal and multi-layered.


How do you write? do you have any particular method for writing?


I get my ideas from watching people or hearing a word or two, maybe in a conversation or a song will jog a memory loose.  It may be something written in a newspaper a billboard, whatever. I scribble it down on a piece of paper. I carry a small notepad in my purse and I have pads of paper all over the house. mainly to write myself notes so I won't forget to do something but also for the words and thoughts that pop up at any time.   Then I type them out.  I used to write longhand in spiral notebooks then I used my daughter's old word processor now I use a computer and that makes things so much easier.


Do you make much use of the Internet?


oh my, yes. I do most of my work via the computer. I used to have to buy envelopes in bulk, type out my poems on that old word processor, get up money for postage then mail out my stuff and wait and wait and wait. sometimes I got replies, sometimes not which meant I'd have to write again. plus I had to write out by hand what I had sent, where I had sent it and when. then put that somewhere that not only would be safe but where I would remember it.

now, it is simpler, faster and neater. it also allows me to read and find many more poems than I ever could just at a library or book store, though I love the feel of a book in my hands.


So the Internet is important to you?


I adore the internet for that same reason. I can find whatever and whoever I am in a mood for or just let fate find something for me. It's like having all of the libraries of the world for my very own.


Why do you write poetry instead of some other creative outlet?


Poetry touches in a way, at least for me, that a short story or a novel can't. it is closer to a painting or a sculpture or a song,  It is like food. There are all types of food, it might be a steak dinner or popcorn, chocolate with wine, or beef jerky and a shot of cheap whiskey. It's what you crave at that time.


Thanks for your time Sherry, is there anything you would like to add?


I can not think of anything to add unless it would be the fact that I feel like I have found a "home" on the list and that I credit it with making me a better poet and a richer human being because of the people that I've met.





This is pretty much as it is.  I've know a few people that were victims of suicide.  Usually  it's no one's fault.
the note

typed neat

no smudges stark white

knife edged folds not
as sharp as the razor

I would like a coffin
of polished wood
dark and shining as
a buckeye just pried

from it's prickly jacket,
smooth with a soft glow
tempting hands to stroke

satin under fingertips
reminding you
of my skin.

I get a lot of my ideas from bars. though I rarely drink.



there are three of us
at the end of the bar
my nose is itchy
from the scratchy smell of
the cheap whisky you two are pounding down
but then, who am I to pass judgment?
me, with painted nails and a glossy paint smile that
I can actually see grinning
in two pairs of glassy eyes,
wide with fake honesty red with booze and smoke as
you both tell tales of Vietnam

vietnaaaahhhhhmmm, in slurred pittsburgese
"back in nahhhhhhmmmm, yadda, yadda...!"

there are three of us
one with an invisible ice pick between her eyebrows
and a long dead lover, forever nineteen, me
sipping at my watered down kahalua and cream that's
curdling in my belly
but not sick enough or pissed off enough yet,
no, not not quite yet to tell
these drunken middle aged bullshit artists that
I've got their number that I've just about had it, that
I KNOW they were never outside of the freaking southside, EVER
that their often mentioned purple hearts are about as real as
my fake nails, just there to impress

there are three of us
at the end of the bar at the end of the night
two have drunken hardons and one of us
me, well I've finally lost my painted smile
and I swear, I have dirt under my manicured nails
from staying here listening to this crap as
two of the three of us do shooters of cheap booze and
are shitfaced enough to think I'm still smiling.


I was so looking forward to getting "poetry speaks" as a Christmas gift one year.   I was so upset with my reaction when I listened to the CDs that came with the book. it just creeped me out.  Really it was not what I expected of myself.
poems read by dead poets. a christmas gift

something odd and awful, unexpected
on silvered discs.
the voices of dead poets
their words, as familiar as morning coffee and buttered toast
their voices unexpected, unpleasant as
the corpse of a fly hidden in the blackberry jam.
I like sensuality in my poetry, at times I like sexuality, they are two different things.  They are also, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder.

my taste for your mouth and the
words it contains, the
thoughts of me they wrap moist
make me lick at your lips as
if they were the last drops in the bottom of the glass. your
ideas give me
shivers of possibilities and so
I search the corners of your mouth for a
stray crumb that I might pick off and

This is one of my poems that has more than just a trace of me in it.
revelations of a kind

he was my epiphany that summer
wearing a bright smile
illumination that frightened him
yet soothed me,
the more accepting but then
I had always been the seer
he, the master of self deception
always closing himself to avoid opening the wound
or perhaps turning away
the fearsome possibility of joy


This one is pure Pittsburgese. We have a very unique dialect here. I celebrate it and the culture but Pittsburgh is changing and a lot of the people that sound this way are called "yinzers" now but those that have rid themselves or the accent and the blue collar steel mill coal mine attitudes. Some of which need to be gotten rid of but some that should be treasured. this poem,  well tho it's set in a blue collar bar it could just as well be set in a country club if the language and accent was changed. the story itself is fairly universal.

one sided conversation, in Pittsburgese

" hey buddy, ya needta grow up
will ya please? jesus buddy
ya were so fuck'n drunk, what
a show ya put on, at yer goddamn age
a god-damn-middle-aged man
act'n like 'at!

what were ya try'n ta prove anyway?
all that bullshit about tha old days
tha big time make out artist
tha local stud, HA!
hey, i'm yer best buddy here, ya unnerstand me? huh?
grow up, ya embarrassed yerself
yer wife, christ, didja fergit she was here, over
inna corner, play'n tha machines. jesus
was she PISSED! fuckit,
ya even pissed me off, ME, yer best buddy!
i threw a tip onna bar an walked out, never even
looked back atcha, buddy!!!!
hey, i know ya man
ya never was some kinda stud. i know'd it
everybody knows ya here. damn we tried hard not ta laugh
too loud.
we watched ya try'n ta pick up fuck'n angie
dumb bitch, an even she was'n kicked inna ass enough
ta go out inna park'n lot witcha, man
THAT'S say'n summp'n. hell ya
could'n even cop a feel offa her
even when yer old lady wassn't stare'n dagger eyes atcha.

christ sakes buddy, grow some balls willya?
ya make us all look like shit when
ya get THAT damn plowed
we're a classy buncha guys here, YA KNOW?"