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JOHN PIETARO is a writer, poet, spoken word artist and musician from Brooklyn NY. Columnist/critic of the NYC Jazz Record, curator of the West Village Word series at Café Bohemia, and director of the Dissident Arts Festival, his latest published work, The Mercer Stands Burning: Night Poems(Atmosphere Press 2020) was completed during the covid lockdown as was short fiction collection, Enduring Neon Moments. In partnership with photographer Sherry Rubel, Pietaro is currently engaged in a study of NYC's downtown experimental and post-punk underground arts, Beneath the Underground. He is also in the final stage of non-fiction collection On the Creative Front: Essays on the Culture of Liberation. In 2019, he launched poetry chapbook Smoke Rings.

      Other recent credits include several entries in the upcoming edition of The Encyclopedia of the American Left(Verso expected 2020), poetry or fiction for the anthologies Who Are We?(UK: Willowdown 2020), Father and I(Wingless Dreamer, 2020) and Poems from the Lockdown(UK: Willowdown, 2020), Il Biglietto 2(Italy: Sibello, 2018), and journals Sensitive Skin, Lucent Dreaming, Headline Press, Rye, Genre: Urban Arts, Ovunque Siamo, International Human Rights Arts Festival and Harbinger Asylum. Pietaro also penned contemporary proletarian fiction collection Night People & Other Tales of Working New York(2013) and contributed a chapter to Paul Buhle and Harvey Pekar's SDS: A Graphic History(Hill & Wang 2007). Pietaro is a contributing writer to the Wire(UK), Z, the Nation, Please Kill Me, the Village Sun, Counter Punch, People's World, All About Jazz, Political Affairs, Fifth Estate and others.

      A guest speaker at Left Forum and the Vision Festival, Pietaro has been a featured reader at Great Weather for Media's Spoken Word Sundays, the Workers United Film Festival, the UpSurge JazzPoetry Festival and numerous other venues. As a drummer-percussionist, and/or spoken word artist, he's collaborated with Allen Ginsberg, Pete Seeger, Amina Baraka, Karl Berger, Steve Dalachinsky, Nora Guthrie, Erika Dagnino, Ras Moshe, Ngoma Hill, historian Paul Buhle, record producer Kramer and many more. He also fronts post-punk neo-Beat ensemble Shadows which recorded a debut album in November 2020, and spoken word/free jazz quartet the Red Microphone which collaborated with Ms. Baraka on the recording Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone(ESP-Disk, 2017). Ms. Baraka also performed Pietaro's "Her Side of the Road" as a dramatic reading in 2017. 



 "The Mercer Stands Burning, the groundbreaking collection of poems by John Pietaro, is "for New York", as he says in the dedication. These amazing poems are influenced by Jazz and the Beats – Miles and Coltrane, and the late Steve Dalachinsky as well, for whom he dedicates the poem "5:03 AM". But Melville is very much alive in these pages, too. Check out the poem "Max of 10th Avenue". Pietaro ends with "The Continuum", and The Mercer Stands Burning is absolutely central to the continuation of great art. Highly recommended!"

--Ron Kolm, poet, founding member of underground collective the Unbearables, contributing editor of Sensitive Skin magazine. His latest poetry book is Swimming in the Shallow End.



"I don't know if John Pietaro set out to create one long love poem to the muse, to the poets, writers, and musicians, to New York City, its dark streets and long nights, but it turns out to be just what we need in these uncertain times.  In this writer's opinion, he has assembled his best work to date; the poems reflect our collective navigation through these last years rather than the headlines. I, for one, can still hear the sound of the Mercer falling"

--Puma Perl, rock-n-roll poet of the Lower East Side, resident poet of Chelsea Community News, she leads the band Puma Perl & Friends and curates quarterly Pandemoniums at Bowery Electric. Puma's latest is Birthdays Before and After.



 “John Pietaro defies the disappearance of the proletarian writer. He is one, improbably, right now. Like Nelson Algren, whose prose his sometimes resembles, his triumph is to not turn away” --Paul Buhle, celebrated historian and author



"A tireless fighter and organizer on the cultural front, John Pietaro now shows up with a timely volume of tightly crafted, silvery sinewed poems. The Mercer Stands Burning—Congratulations!

I found John through his prose, his brilliant chronicling of writers of the 1930s. Later, I met and collaborated with him through the Dissident Arts Festival he's produced for over a decade"

--Raymond Nat Turner, performance poet, activist, Poet-in-Residence Black Agenda Report, He leads acclaimed jazz/poetry ensemble UpSurge!NYC with wife and partner Zigi Lowenberg



"I've read Smoke Rings with great pleasure. Beautifully made, deeply evocative of a world I know well and cherish" --Steve Swallow, renowned jazz bassist



 "John Pietaro's words are soul cries, and observations, from a Real Human longing for the moan of a saxophone in the NYC pandemic isolation night! Blessings, Poet Brother, on Your Excellent Book!!!"

-Billy Lamont, poet and spoken word artist, has engaged in collaborations with rock musicians, released several albums and poetry collections, his latest is Ripped from a Soul Still Bleeding



”Pietaro’s straightforward urban writing style is reminiscent of Beat literature, with a clear progressive view” - Anthony Mango, People’s World



“John Pietaro's poetry is infused with power, passion, and poignancy. At times glaringly gritty, then sensual and surreal, his work is as hot as a smoky jazz club, as cool as a Coltrane solo.  In "The Poet's Constellation," Pietaro writes "The Words…The Words…Daring to bring on the written revolution."  It's a revolution he is leading. Like Hemmingway, he sits down at a typewriter and bleeds" --Patricia Martin, author and poet, Woodstock NY and Torrington, Connecticut where she founded the Speakeasy coffeehouse.


 "Pietaro's perceptions as a music critic are really incredible. I'm only glad he has the ears to hear and the eyes to see!" - William Hooker, noted jazz drummer, poet and composer



Writing Credits


-Beneath the Underground with photographer Sherry Rubel (current project)


-On the Creative Front: Essays on the Culture of Liberation (in prep for publication)


-Enduring Neon Moments, short fiction collection (2020, currently unpublished)


-Encyclopedia of the American Left, revised edition (Verso, 2021) - contributed several entries


-The Mercer Stands Burning, poetry collection (Atmosphere Press, 2020)


-Smoke Rings poetry chapbook (New Masses Media, 2019)


-Night People and Other Tales of Working New York fiction collection; foreword by Paul Buhle (2013)


-SDS: A Graphic History (Harvey Pekar and Paul Buhle, Hill & Wang 2007) -contributed chapter  "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore" to this collection largely written by Pekar, edited by Buhle 


-Anthologies (poetry/fiction):

Who Am I? (UK: Willowdown 2020)

Father and I (Wingless Dreamer, 2020)

Poems from the Lockdown (UK: Willowdown, 2020)

Il Biglietto 2 (Genoa, Italy: Sibello, 2018)

The Power of Purple (SEIU 2003)


 -Literary Journals (poetry/fiction): Sensitive Skin (Sept 2020), Lucent Dreaming (Sept 2020), Headline Poetry Press (April 2020), Rye (March 2020), Ovungue International (Jan 2020), Human Rights Arts Festival (Sept 2019), Harbinger Asylum (Spring 2019) 


-Magazine/blog credits (literary/music/film criticism)The NYC Jazz Record (columnist), Sensitive Skin, the Wire (UK), Please Kill Me, the Village Sun, Z, The Nation, CounterPunch, Jazz Right NowPeople's World, Way Out West (Japan), the Industrial Worker, Struggle, Fifth EstatePolitical Affairs, AllAboutJazz, the Socialist and many more (1999-present)


-Arts-activist blog:


 Literature as a weapon of social justice: A primary influence remains the work of Leftist militant writers of the 1910s-60s, the bold auters of literary fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, theatre works, reportage and screen- and teleplays that forged a new day. His work is also greatly inspired by the writers of New York's punk and post-punk movements.


Pietaro holds a Master of Arts in Education, Bachelor's degree in Music Therapy, and also studied Communications.

Affiliations: the Author's Guild, the Academy of American Poets, the National Writers Union, PEN America, the Poetry Society of New York and the International Society of Improvised Music.


Pietaro curates West Village Word at the historic Cafe Bohemia (15 Barrow Street, NYC). The monthly series on last Wednesdays features integrated poetry and music to conjure downtown's creative past and explore the spoken word sounds of today via JazzPoetry, Neo-Beat and Post-Punk verse.


Pietaro produces the annual Dissident Arts Festival, among numerous concerts, readings and panel discussions. Over the years he's organized multi-arts events throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn as well as the Hudson Valley towns of Woodstock, Kingston, Beacon and New Paltz NY. Sites of his events or performances include NYC Town Hall, the Brecht Forum, Bowery Electric, the Jazz Gallery, El Taller Latino, ShapeShifter Lab, the Firehouse Space, Lady Stardust, the Knitting Factory, the Parkside Lounge, 5C Cultural Cafe, CBGB, Cornelia St Cafe, 17 Frost Theatre of Arts, Brooklyn Commons, Henry Winston Unity Hall, Lunch for Your Ears, Generator, Sidewalk Cafe, the Colony (Woodstock NY), the Byrdcliffe Theatre (Woodstock NY), Howland Cultural Center (Beacon NY), Union Square Park, Washington Square Park, Fort Green Park and more. Pietaro has been a guest speaker at Left Forum, the Workers Unite Fim Festival and the Vision Festival.


As a percussionist, spoken word artist, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, he has performed and/or recorded with Allen Ginsberg, Pete Seeger, Amina Baraka, Karl Berger’s Improvisers Orchestra, Steve Dalachinsky, Nora Guthrie, Fred Ho, Charlee Ellerbe, Erika Dagnino, Ras Moshe's Music Now, Puma Perl, Harmolodic Monk, Ngoma Hill, historian Paul Buhle, record producer Kramer and many more. He also fronts post-punk/neo-Beat ensemble Shadows and free jazz poetry quartet the Red Microphone; the latter ensemble collaborated with Amina Baraka in performance and recording (2015-18). Ms. Baraka also performed a dramatic reading of Pietaro’s work “Her Side of the Road”, August 2017.



 Selected Discography:

Shadows: 'And I Became of the Dark' (ESP_Disk, 2020)

 ‘Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone’ (ESP-Disk, 2017)

 'Harmolodic Monk' (Unseen Rain 2014)

 Erika Dagnino: 'Signs' (Slam 2013)

 'The Red Microphone Speaks' (Dissident Arts 2012)

 Flames of Discontent: 'Revenge of the Atom Spies' (2007)

 Flames of Discontent: 'I Dreamed I Heard Joe Hill Last Night (Rhode Island Labor Society 2005)



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