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

Jimmy wore many hats during his life. Vietnam veteran, policeman, detective, organizer, crazy elf. But to me the greatest hat that he wore was his friend hat. He didn’t know the word ‘impossible’ or ‘It can’t be done.’ You see, he knew the ins and outs. He had the connections. So ‘impossible’ became “Let’s make it happen.”

I was lucky to meet Jimmy and Gloria a couple of years ago and, like my wife says, got on the Jimmy Team. Some days we didn’t know where we were going, only that when we got there we were going to make kids and adults smile. We went to schools, hospitals – both V.A. and Presby. We just didn’t hand out presents. We  gave hope and showed them the good in the world. We let them know that they were special and loved.

He did this all with stage 4 cancer eating up his body and Agent Orange destroying his heart.

Yes, I only knew Jimmy for a short time but he will never be forgotten. I will never forget my friend Jimmy Cvetic.

Rest in peace.

Jim McCabe (Santa Claus)

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.

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

Stay tuned.