John Pietaro is a writer, poet, musician and cultural organizer from Brooklyn, NY Columnist/critic of the NYC Jazz Record, Pietaro's latest book is The Mercer Stands Burning: Night Poems (Atmosphere Press 2020). He is a contributing journalist of Please Kill Me, the Wire (UK), Sensitive Skin, Z, AllAboutJazz, the Nation, the Village Sun, Counter Punch, People's World, TruthOut and others. Pietaro is the director of the annual Dissident Arts Festival, curates West Village Word at Café Bohemia, and hosts the 'Jazz Just After Dark' radio program, alternate Friday evenings on MakerParkRadio.NYC. In partnership with photographer Sherry Rubel, Pietaro is 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 long-term project 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), and poetry or fiction for anthologies Who Are We? (UK: Willowdown), Father and I (Wingless Dreamer), Poems from the Lockdown (UK: Willowdown) and Il Biglietto 2 translated by Erika Dagnino (Italy: Sibello), plus journals Heroes Are Gang Leaders Gianthology, Lucent Dreaming, Headline Press, Rye, Genre: Urban Arts, Ovunque Siamo, International Human Rights Arts Festival, 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).
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, theUpSurgeJazzPoetry Festival and numerous other venues. As percussionist, guitarist and/orspoken word artist, he's collaborated with Allen Ginsberg,Pete Seeger,Amina Baraka,KarlBerger,Steve Dalachinsky,Nora Guthrie,Erika Dagnino,Ras Moshe,Ngoma Hill,recording engineer Ivan Julian,historian Paul Buhle,record producer Kramer and many more. He also fronts post-punk poetry/free jazz ensemble the Red Microphone which released And I Became of the Dark in April 2021 on the legendary ESP-Disk label. The band earlier collaborated with Amina Baraka on Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone (ESP-Disk, 2017). Ms. Baraka also performed Pietaro's "Her Side of the Road" as a dramatic reading with music.
"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
"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
”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
-On the Creative Front: Essays on the Culture of Liberation (in prep for publication)
-Encyclopedia of the American Left, revised edition (Verso, 2021) - contributed entries on Sis Cunningham, Bernice Diskin, Kenneth Fearing, Joseph Freeman, Walter Lowenfels, Victor and Ellen Perlo, Horace Tapscott
-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): Lucent Dreaming, Headline Poetry Press, Rye, Ovungue International, Human Rights Arts Festival, 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 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.
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, 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.
Jazz Just After Dark:Pietaro's radio program airs music from both the mainstream and the edge of the artform and interviews of local underground figures. Alternate Fridays, 6-8 PM www.MakerParkRadio.NYC
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/neo-Beat ensemble Shadows and free jazz/poetry quartet the Red Microphone; the latter ensemble collaborated with Amina Baraka in performance and recording. Ms. Baraka also performed a dramatic reading of Pietaro’s work “Her Side of the Road”, August 2017. The band in an expanded form, recorded the album And I Became of the Dark in late 2020.
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, Academy of American Poets, National Writers Union, Jazz Journalists Association, Poetry Society of New York and International Society of Improvised Music.
--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