JOHN PIETARO is a writer, poet, spoken word artist and musician from Brooklyn, NY. His latest work is the poetry/fiction collection A Bleeding in Black Leather (Uncollected Press, 2022). In 2020, his The Mercer Stands Burning: Night Poems was published by Atmosphere Press, and in 2019 poetry chapbook Smoke Rings was launched. Earlier, Pietaro 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). He also wrote multiple entries for the upcoming edition of The Encyclopedia of the American Left (Verso) and is deep into first novel Of Seconds and Shadows.
Columnist/critic of The NYC Jazz Record, Pietaro is a contributing arts reporter to PleaseKillMe, The Wire (UK), Z, Sensitive Skin, AllAboutJazz, The Nation, The Village Sun, Counter Punch, People's World, TruthOut and others, and his poetry or fiction has appeared in numerous international anthologies and journals. He was among the honorees at the New York Press Association 2021 "Better Newspaper" awards ceremony for his obit of drummer Deep Pop in The Village Sun.
Pietaro founded the Dissident Arts Festival and Brecht Lives! Festival, hosts radio shows 'Beneath the Underground' (WFMU.org), and fronts post-punk jazz/poetry ensemble the Red Microphone, recording artists of the ESP-Disk label. The band's latest album, A Bleeding in Black Leather was released in 2022. And I Became of the Dark was released the year prior, and previous to this, the Red Microphone collaborated with poet/activist Amina Baraka for Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone (2017). Ms. Baraka also performed Pietaro's "Her Side of the Road" as a dramatic reading in 2018.
A guest speaker at Left Forum and the Vision Festival, Pietaro has been featured at the Boog City Festival, the International Human Rights Arts Festival, Great Weather for Media's Spoken Word Sundays, People's Music Network Festival, Workers United Film Festival, UpSurge JazzPoetry Festival and many others. He's been the subject of interviews by Word City Lit, Levure Litteraire, l'Unita, WBAI-FM, WDST-FM and other media outlets. Pietaro has collaborated with Allen Ginsberg, Pete Seeger, Amina Baraka, Karl Berger, Steve Dalachinsky, Nora Guthrie, Ras Moshe, Erika Dagnino, historians Paul Buhle and Will Kaufman, and record producers Ivan Julian and Kramer, among many more. By day, he serves as Organizing Director of Local 802, American Federation of Musicians.
"In 2020, I described John Pietaro's The Mercer Stands Burning as a love poem to the muse and to NYC itself. One foot out of the pandemic, A Bleeding in Black Leather is part punk rock dirge, part jazz symphony, paying homage to the lost and to the living treasures. Sonny stands at the bridge and Selby's Brooklyn "surrounds Manhattan like a fallen idol." The last lines are, I hope, a segue to the next installment: "So smeared, the rainbows of ink…saturation to the vivid""
--PUMA PERL, rock-n-roll poet of the Lower East Side, resident poet of Chelsea Community News, she leads the band Puma Perl & Friends. Puma's latest publication is Birthdays Before and After.
This groundbreaking collection by John Pietaro is all New York. At night. These amazing poems and tales are influenced by the Beats, punk and jazz –but Melville remains very much alive in these pages, too. A Bleeding in Black Leather is the continuation of great art.
--RON KOLM, poet, editor, founding member of the Unbearables, and downtown archivist of the NYU Library. His latest book is Swimming in the Shallow End.
Damn—John's drawing us in again with well-wrought words—this time A Bleeding in Black Leather...the Big Apple's the backdrop! Props!
--RAYMOND NAT TURNER, Poet-in-Residence of Black Agenda Report, he co-leads jazz/poetry ensemble UpSurge!NYC
"The Night Leonard Cohen Died" reads like a literary documentary reel. A truly poetic cinéma verité. But in all of A Bleeding in Black Leather, John Pietaro is constructing his own New York myths. These stories are all physical graffiti verses gathered over the years inside the writer's block; pun intended. Reading John's lines I think of Scorsese's movies, I hear Al Pacino swearing on the phone from Miami, and I can just perceive the film camera zooming high out, and looking down at the mean streets.
--ANDREW STYS, artist, filmmaker, UK
"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 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
"Pietaro's straightforward urban writing style is reminiscent of Beat literature, with a clear progressive view"
--ANTHONY MANGOS, People's World
"I received The Mercer Stands Burning several days ago and have been working my way through your poems. I wanted to write to you nearly right away, but still find it hard to describe the wonder and strength of your poetic voice. Your imagery blows my mind. The tightly knit and subtle development of personal with socio/political is unique. As wonderful poetry, it breaks into an otherwise inexpressible consciousness."
--MARYANNE DEPROPHETIS, vocalist and poet
"John Pietaro's words are soul cries, and observations, from a Real Human longing for light...like 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
“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
-Encyclopedia of the American Left, revised edition (Verso, 2024) - contributed entries on Sis Cunningham, Bernice Diskin, Kenneth Fearing, Joseph Freeman, Walter Lowenfels, Victor and Ellen Perlo, Horace Tapscott
-A Bleeding in Black Leather poetry/fiction chapbook (Uncollected Press, 2022)
-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 short fiction collection (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
Heroes Are Gang Leaders Gianthology (2021)
Who Are We? (UK: Willowdown 2020)
Father and I (Wingless Dreamer, 2020)
Poems from the Lockdown (UK: Willowdown, 2020)
Il Biglietto 2 (Italy: Sibello, 2018)
The Power of Purple (DC: SEIU 2003)
-Literary Journals (poetry/fiction): Love Love, The Avenue, Lucent Dreaming, Headline Poetry Press, Rye, Ovungue International, Human Rights Arts Festival press, Harbinger Asylum, more.
-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 Now, People's World, Way Out West (Japan), the Industrial Worker, Struggle, Fifth Estate, Political Affairs, AllAboutJazz, the Socialist and many more (1999-present)
-Arts-activist blog: http://theCulturalWorker.blogspot.com
Pietaro's cultural organizing includes 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, Henry Winston Unity Center, the Colony (Woodstock NY), 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, the Vision Festival and others.
Beneath the Underground radio: Pietaro's show on WFMU/Sheena's Jungle Room airs every Wednesday, 10pm eastern. https://wfmu.org/playlists/UN
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, Harmolodic Monk, Will Connell, Puma Perl, Ngoma Hill, historian Paul Buhle, record producer Kramer and many more. He also fronts post-punk jazz poetry ensemble the Red Microphone.
The Red Microphone: 'A Bleeding in Black Leather' (ESP-Disk, 2022)
The Red Microphone: 'And I Became of the Dark' (ESP-Disk, 2021)
Amina Baraka and the Red Microphone: ‘Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone’ (ESP-Disk, 2017)
Matt Lavelle and John Pietaro: 'Harmolodic Monk' (Unseen Rain 2014)
Erika Dagnino Quartet: 'Signs' (Slam 2013)
The Red Microphone: 'The Red Microphone Speaks' (Dissident Arts 2012)
The Flames of Discontent: 'Revenge of the Atom Spies' (2007)
The Flames of Discontent: 'I Dreamed I Heard Joe Hill Last Night' (Rhode Island Labor Society 2005)
Pietaro holds a Master of Arts in Education, Bachelor's degrees in Music Therapy and Music Performance (Percussion), and also studied Communications.
Affiliations: Author's Guild, International Federation of Journalists, Academy of American Poets, National Writers Union, Jazz Journalists Association, Poetry Society of New York, Local 802 AFM
--Literature as a weapon of social justice is at the core of John Pietaro's arts philosophy. A primary influence remains the work of 1920s-60s Left writers, auteurs of literary fiction, poetry, essays, theatre works, reportage and screenplays, as well as New York's downtown avant garde and punk movements of the '70s and '80s that forged a new day--
Website: http://JohnPietaro.com Blog: http://TheCulturalWorker.blogspot.com