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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: John Michael Pietaro

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? As a writer I revel in using the medium as a force of personal expression at least as much as I do in reaching out to the wider vision and palette. Art must be born of life, of experience, and grown through events in society. Art cannot exist in a vacuum or ivory tower; it thrives both within and without of the artist.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? When I’m struggling as a poet, I embark on fiction writing or the non-fiction/journalism I also work in. Longer forms can magnify and renew poetry and some of my poems began as short stories. And vice verse. I’ve never believed in being a single-genre writer. Many of my inspirations—Hemingway, Brecht, John Reed, Langston Hughes, Kenneth Fearing, Dorothy Parker, Walter Lowenfels—lived in a time which demanded writers, all artists, work in various areas. And most incorporated social justice if not revolution into their essays, dramas, poetry, fiction, reportage and speeches. What could be more inspiring? Bourbon helps too.

What is your favorite time to write? At night. I’m a notorious night person and even while still holding a day job, I come alive late in the evening. My first book of fiction was Night People, last year’s poetry chapbook was titled Smoke Rings and the subtitle of my current poetry collection is Night Poems. There’s a subtle theme there, but it’s an honest one. Im also a musician and (pre covid) I am so very moved by jazz clubs and underground performance spaces. Being in and around music also inflames writing!

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Pour yourself into your work, feel it, experience it, allow it to anger and shock if needed, but a writer cannot evade truth at the keyboard. One of my tattoos says it: “Sit at a typewriter and bleed” – Ernest Hemingway

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? Hard to say. I tend to be influenced by writers of the 1920s, 30s, 60s and 70s, but nowadays we have the greatest access to all of these. I’m now 58 years old and have been collecting books for decades but back when, we couldn’t search for a work published in “the Masses” in 1918. Now we actually can. This is invaluable to the expansion and maturity of any artist.

John Pietaro’s The Mercer Stands Burning is out now with Atmosphere Press.