Thursday, February 21, 2019

Jimmy Cvetic Tributes

In Memory of Jimmy Cvetic

 Jimmy & Franco Harris
Photograph by Ruth E. Hendricks

Saying goodbye to Pittsburgh’s Original Renaissance Man
by Charlie Deitch

Obituary from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jimmy Cvetic had heart. He had a heart for the young men he trained 
in his gym, a heart for the children for whom he provided Christmas
gifts each year, and a heart for the poets of Pittsburgh.
Jimmy loved words and wove them into poems. But even more, he 
loved people and reached out to them.
We will miss him, but we will also remember him. His spirit will
continue to reach out to us.
 - Shirley Stevens

In Memory of Jimmy Cvetic
     A great-hearted gift,
   constructing community
     out of poetry.
Though I stood on the outskirts
  you made me feel I belonged.

      -Mary Soon Lee

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy . . .  Stalwart (first word that comes up), large-hearted, crazy, passionately anti-war, in love with words. Brother from another mother. Both of us Vietnam vets, him more than me — no small part of our tie. I'm restraining myself from emotion I feel as I think about him.

I don't remember how I first met Jim, but we bonded in February 2003 when I uncharacteristically threw myself into creating a public event — an anti-war reading downtown, at Market Square. More than 20 poets came out to protest Bush/Cheney war plans, simultaneously with anti-war protests that day around the world.  Ours at Market Square took place with snowfall and temperature at 15º F.  I think the weather became more brutal each time Jim & I mentioned it in succeeding years.

I barely knew Jim when I recruited him a day or two ahead of time for this event by looking him up at his downtown coffee shop. I immediately felt gratitude for his undiluted, robust, affirming support. On the day of the reading, he came out early and his presence buoyed me immensely. The event had considerable media coverage, and is high on my personal list of things I've done worth doing, with no small thanks to Jim.

In late 2014, after Galway Kinnell died, I mentioned to Jim — I think it was a casual conversation on Craig Street in Oakland — that I'd had thoughts about doing something, maybe a memorial reading, to honor Galway. Like me, Jim had worked with Galway and admired him and his poetry. Immediately, with full force, Jim jumped on this idea and encouraged me — no, insisted — that I follow-through. Once more into the breach I threw myself into making a public event, which resulted in a January 31, 2015 reading at East End Book Exchange (now White Whale).  A cross-section of Pittsburgh's poets read to a bursting-at-the-seams (no bull) turnout — more than 100 people and walkaways at the front door who couldn't fit into the space.

It was a tremendously warm, memorable event, another high on the list of things I'm proud of doing, and it wouldn't have happened without Jim's stalwart love and energy. Peace brother.

— Mike Schneider

for Jimmy Cvetic

Jimmy brings the mike
into the box where the paneling
is tired from smoky nights
and the pool players stop
their chock chock.

He read us a poem once
about Internet sex:
men with women,
women with women, men
with dogs…
knows the ropes, the rules,
but steps over the chalked lines
of money and schools,
doesn’t see them.

In the break between featured readers
Jimmy introduces
the kid he’s training:
high cheekbones, a glow off him,
dark brown lion in the headlights,
and we yellow like paper.

Jimmy holds up the basket of tips
for the waitress,
plugs the kid’s match,
and calls the featured reader,
but any poet can oil up and flex
with contenders
in Jimmy’s hospitable light--
Jimmy contends
there’s no such thing as
a bad poem.
He knows there are bad actors--
he’s arrested some.

And maybe a poem will dance backward
light on its feet, land its blow
and maybe some poets will glow
at the bell in the ring
where Jimmy will introduce them
if they’ll go.
--with love, Arlene Weiner, August 2007

For All the Poets Who Sat on the Floor
   at Our Pablo Neruda Reading, 2005

I am sending the Neruda poster to you
a big poetry trumpet— Jimmy—it says
Neruda, who wrote poems in green ink,
(the color of hope) knew something about enough

All of us would often be ashamed
of our finest actions if the world
understood some of the impulses that
produced them—even you and Pablo and I

but still we recognize the sacred—

Borges’ mother became his secretary
Dorothy Parker left all her money
to the one and only Martin Luther King
Alice Sebold. a writer who loves every horse

gets up to write in the almighty dark—and
does so because she believes all the unforgiving
judges in her life have to be sound asleep then

I think of the poems we read that day Jimmy
to the people sitting on the floor at Hemingways
—they are for Pablo’s socks, my piano and you

                         Rosaly DeMaios Roffman

A long, long time ago Jimmy produced a poetry reading at Rosebud, a club
downtown, and asked for submissions for an anthology of poems. When the
anthology came out, it said that Pittsburgh was "home of the national
Muse." This made me laugh. But Jimmy was right: Pittsburgh is amazingly
hospitable to poetry. I think Jimmy is one reason why.

 -Arlene Weiner

The last time I talked to Jimmy Cvetic, he pitched me on a new story. Not one about him, of course (he understood that any story about his work would have to include him, but the process made him uncomfortable). He wanted to do a piece about a program he was working with to help kids in the area. This was smack in the middle of Jimmy’s battle with cancer. He was thinner, his skin looked like paper. However, telling me about the new program, his voice expressed none of this. He sounded fine. He sounded like a man who had work to do. And he did, right up till the end.

The final time I saw Jimmy Cvetic, I was dropping off a roll of film to develop at Pittsburgh’s Monroeville Mall. Near the photo lab I saw Jimmy inside his WPAL (Western Pennsylvania Police Athletic League) office, which was closed at the time, its big roll-down cage blocking entrance. This was after Christmas, fresh off of Jimmy’s annual “Stuff a Store” event, during which the WPAL space was filled with donated presents, which were then given to local police to hand out in their neighborhoods.

I stood there watching Jimmy shuffling through the office. It looked like he was taking some sort of inventory, maybe seeing exactly how much he was able to give away that year. Every year, he gave away as much as he could.

— Eric Boyd, 2/16/19 ■ Reprinted with the author's permission from

Jimmy Cvetic, 1949-2019
Billy Goat Gruff?
Well yes, but also Dog, also Coach, 
Also Narc, also Vet, also Wit & Charmer.

Wicked Smart. Salty-Tongued, Kindhearted.

What do you do with a guy like that---

But much more to the point---

What do you do without him?

Wish him a better place somewhere

And give thanks for knowing him.

--Judith R. Robinson

There's a song that claims "there's a light that never goes out". That may in fact be true, but today that light has certainly dimmed considerably. Jimmy Cvetic was one of the most amazing human beings I have ever had the good fortune of knowing. His passion for helping people and putting good into the world was only matched by his love of and faith in the written word. Even though Jimmy had been ill for some time, this is still news I never expected to receive. Jimmy Cvetic was a titan and surely titans get a pass in this universe. Sadly, no. Jimmy is my friend (I will not use the word 'was' in this context) and he taught me more than anyone how to conduct myself as a poet in a community of living, breathing, fragile human beings. I will always love and respect this man. My friend. Jimmy Cvetic will always be a part of Pittsburgh. How could he not be? He is the very poetry we all speak to each other when we ask simply, "How can I help?"

Be at peace, my friend.

-- Kristofer Collins


Reviews of Jimmy's activities from Kristofer Collins

1. A review of Secret Society of Dog here

2. A piece on the Hemingway's series here

3. A review of Dog Is a Love from Hell here

Elegy For Jimmy Cvetic

As Chuck Parnell would say,
"We'll not see his like again."

On the other hand,
how long do you think the Lord
will put up with Jimmy's nagging:

“Heaven must be more inclusive,
not exclusive."
"There's no such thing as a bad person.”

Whenever a poet
needs encouragement during the night
or a young boxer
needs someone in his corner,
Jimmy will be there.


The over-and-under is three years.

I’ll take the under.

-- Michael Wurster

Hard Men   

             for Jimmy Cvetic



auto workers
railroad men
the old rings were filled
like sinkholes
with America’s hard men
the practitioners of the sweet science
who came in all sizes
Sandy Saddler
Joe Louis
Jess Willard the Pottawatomie Giant
Henry Armstrong
Willy Pep
who could calculate
the human face
like a soft peach
in places like Madison Square Garden
or Yankee Stadium
or any pit
for a little money
a little blood
no one remembers now
but God the Creator
who blessed America
who said with the right connections
we could have been a contender

John Stupp


I loved reading Jimmy’s poems, and hearing him read them: they spoke and sang passion, heart, and justice. I was always happy to see him at Hemingway’s, where he & Joan nurtured the poetry fires.
Judith Vollmer

Jimmy Cvetic was unique, irreplaceable.  It would take three of four people to be and do what Jimmy was and did:  poet,  poetry champion, instigator and master of ceremonies for many literary events and extravaganzas, raconteur, friend of Nick Nolte, undercover policeman with the street name Mad Dog.  Dear Jimmy, we miss all of what you were.  I hope heaven is interesting enough for you.  If not, I know your presence will change that.

-Lynn Emanuel

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Jimmy Cvetic 1949-2019

Jimmy Cvetic

Click to Enlarge
Jimmy Cvetic, founder and host of the Hemingway's Poetry Series, passed away on February 15, 2019.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has published an obituary. You may read it at 

In days to come, this  site will publish reactions from his friends and fans.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

December 6, 2018 (Bill of Rights Day Reading)

Bill of Rights Day Reading
A Benefit for the ACLU
December 6, 2018

Curated by Joan Bauer and Emily Mohn-Slate 
Hosted by the White Whale Bookstore

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From L-R: Cameron Barnett, Emily Mohn-Slate, Sheila Carter-Jones, Mike Schneider, Justin Vicari, Arlene Weiner, Don Wentworth, Celeste Gainey, Joy Katz, Adriana Ramirez, Malcolm Friend, Joan Bauer & Jan Hamilton

Emily Mohn-Slate Introduction

Emily Mohn-Slate - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download
Joan Bauer Introduction
Joan Bauer - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download

Cameron Barnett holds an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was poetry editor for Hot Metal Bridge, and co-coordinator of Pitt’s Speakeasy Reading Series. He teaches middle school at Falk Laboratory School, and serves as an editor of Pittsburgh Poetry Journal and a board member of The Bridge Series. His work has been nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize, the 82nd Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Prize. His first collection, The Drowning Boy's Guide to Water (Autumn House Press, 2018), was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award.  

Cameron Barnett - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download 

Sheila L. Carter-Jones is the author of Three Birds Deep selected by Elizabeth Alexander as the 2012 winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Book Award and the chapbook Blackberry Cobbler Song. Her chapbook Crooked Star Dreambook was named Honorable Mention for the 2013 New York Center for Book Arts Chapbook Contest. Sheila is a fellow of Cave Canem, Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop and a Walter Dakin Fellow of the 2015 Sewanee Writers' Conference. She has been described by Herbert Woodward Martin as one who writes with "immediacy of tone, voice and language."  

Sheila Carter-Jones - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download 

Malcolm Friend is a poet originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University and his MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of the chapbook mxd kd mixtape (Glass Poetry, 2017), and has received awards and fellowships from organizations including CantoMundo, VONA/Voices of Our Nations, Backbone Press, the Center for African American Poetry & Poetics, and the University of Memphis. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including La Respuesta magazine, Vinyl, Word Riot, The Acentos Review, and Pretty Owl Poetry. His first full-length book of poetry, Our Brusies Kept Singing Purple, the winner of the Hillary Gravendyk Prize, was published by the Inlandia Institute in 2018. 

Malcolm Friend - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download 

Celeste Gainey is the author of the full-length poetry collection, the GAFFER (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press, 2015), and the chapbook In the land of speculation & seismography (Seven Kitchens Press, 2011), runner-up for the 2010 Robin Becker Prize. The first woman to be admitted to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) as a gaffer, she has spent many years working with light in film and architecture. 

Celeste Gainey - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download

Joy Katz has three books of poems; her manuscript in progress, White: An Abstract, documents every minute of whiteness in her life. Her honors include a Stegner fellowship and grants from the NEA, the Heinz Foundation, the Barbara Deming Fund, and Dickinson House in Belgium. She is also a social practice artist, collaborating with musicians, theater practitioners, and choreographers in the pro-beauty, anti-racist art collective IfYouReallyLoveMe. She teachers in Carlow’s Madwomen in the Attic workshops for women and is an editor-at-large for Copper Nickel.  

Joy Katz - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download  

Adriana E. Ramírez is a Mexican-Colombian nonfiction writer, storyteller, critic, and performance poet based in Pittsburgh. She’s the winner of the 2015 PEN/Fusion Emerging Writer’s Prize, for her nonfiction novella, Dead Boys (Little A, 2016). In 2016, she was named “Critic At Large” by the Los Angeles Times’ Book Section.  Her writing has also appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary HubGuernica/ PEN America, ConvolutionHEArt, Apogee, and She is the author of two small-press poetry books—The Swallows (Blue Sketch Press, reissued 2016) and Trusting in Imaginary Spaces (Tired Hearts Press, 2010)—as well as the nonfiction editor of DISMANTLE (Thread Makes Blanket Press, 2014). Ramírez co-founded Aster(ix) Journal in 2013 with novelist Angie Cruz.  Once a nationally ranked slam poet, she co-founded the Pittsburgh Poetry Collective (home of the Steel City Slam) and the infamous Nasty Slam. She was featured in the 2014 Legends of Poetry Slam Showcase and TEDxHouston, as well as the 2016 Three Rivers Arts Festival. Her debut full-length nonfiction book, The Violence, is forthcoming from Scribner (2018). 

Adriana Ramirez - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download 

Mike Schneider has published in many journals, including Notre Dame Review, New Ohio Review and Poetry. In 2012 he received The Florida Review Editors Award in Poetry. In 2017 he won the Robert Phillips Prize from Texas Review Press, which published his second chapbook, How Many Faces Do You Have? 

Mike Schneider - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download  

Justin Vicari is a poet, cultural critic, and translator. His first collection of poems, The Professional Weepers (Pavement Saw, 2011), won the Transcontinental Award. He is the author of a new collection, In Search of Lost Joy (Main Street Rag, 2018). He has also published monographs on filmmakers Gus Van Sant and Nicolas Winding Refn. 

Justin Vicari - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download  

Arlene Weiner is the author of two poetry collections: City Bird (Ragged Sky, 2016) and Escape Velocity (Ragged Sky, 2006), of which Poet Joy Katz wrote, “I want to keep my favorite of these beautifully alert, surprising poems with me as I grow old.” A MacDowell Colony fellow in 2008, Arlene has been a Shakespeare scholar, a cardiology technician, a college instructor, an editor, and a research associate in educational applications of cognitive science. Her poetry has been published in journals including Off the CoastPleiadesPoet Lore, and U.S. 1 Worksheets, anthologized, and read by Garrison Keillor on his Writer’s Almanac. She also writes plays. Her play Findings was produced by Pittsburgh Playwrights Company in March 2017. 

Arlene Weiner - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download 

Don Wentworth's work reflects his interest in the revelatory nature of brief, haiku-like moments in everyday life.  His poetry has appeared in Modern Haiku, bottle rockets, Frogpond, and Rolling Stone, as well as a number of anthologies.  He is the author of three poetry collections from Six Gallery Press: Past All Traps (2011), Yield to the Willow (2014), and With a Deepening Presence (2016).  Don has two new poetry books forthcoming: a collection of ghazals from Low Ghost and a collaborative collection of tanka written with the British haiku poet, Joy McCall. 

Don Wentworth - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download 

Mac users who lack a 2-button mouse may press Control-Click on the appropriate links to enable downloads.      

Saturday, November 10, 2018

November 10, 2018 (Glorious Women Poets)

Glorious Women Poets

On Saturday night Jimmy Cvetic and Gloria Sztukowski hosted a poetry reading to benefit WPAL (Western Pennsylvania Police Athletic League). On hand to participate were 11 local poets. Below you will find photographs of the event along with a recording of each poet's performance.

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Leslie Anne Mcilroy - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download)

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Joan Bauer - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download)

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Marianne Trale - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download)

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Romella Kitchens - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download)

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Lynn Emanuel - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download)

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Jan Beatty - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download)

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Kayla Sargeson - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download)

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Daniela Buccilli - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download)

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Lori Jakiela - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download)

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Shirley Stevens - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download)

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Sheila Carter-Jones - Click to Play (Right-Click to Download)

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