In Memory of Poet Jack Veasey (1955-2016)

(Click on title for full screen view)



Courtesy of Harrisburg News

By g emil reutter


Poet Jack Veasey grew up in the then working class neighborhood of Fishtown in the city of Philadelphia. He graduated from Northeast Catholic High School. He began writing poetry in his teenage years and was a force on the Philadelphia poetry scene. Jack served as an editor for a number of publications including the Philadelphia Gay News. In a 2012 interview Jack discussed the impact of Fishtown on his poetry:

I had plenty to struggle against in Fishtown. The neighborhood’s old atmosphere – when it was industrial, before it became gentrified — still pervades a lot of my work. My poems are often set in gritty urban locales. I was oppressed as a kid in Fishtown –  I was a target for bullies – and that gave me an outsider’s perspective, and made me identify  with the underdog, which I still do. That colors a lot of my choices of subjects, and the viewpoints from which I write, when they aren’t my own.



Jack Veasey at Rooted Open MIC


After a number of moves, Jack and his partner P. David Walker moved to Hummelstown, Pennsylvania. Jack became an integral part of the Central Pennsylvania poetry scene reading at numerous venues and assisting other poets in their development. A member of the Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel, Jack was a featured reader at the venue as well as reading in the open mic. Jack was also featured at venues in Lancaster and York.


Jack Veasey at Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel


Jack Veasey had eleven books published during his lifetime and was published in hundreds of literary publications. He said as a young man he had an eclectic group of influences:

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnets had a big impact on me, and got me interested in writing formal poetry – I’ve done quite a bit of that, though I write free verse a lot, too. Edward Field’s poems opened me up in terms of feeling like I could write about ANY subject matter, including things most people would be embarrassed to write about. Jared Carter got me interested in the narrative aspect.  I know Edward and Jared personally, and other poets I’ve known personally have had a big impact on me. I got a lot of encouragement to do readings from Maralyn Lois Polak early on in the Philly scene, and the lateNew   York poet Barbara A. Holland was a mentor who was instrumental in getting my first chapbook published when I was twenty. Some poets I’ve studied with had a big impact – Alexandra Grilikhes and Etheridge Knight, particularly, both of whom I studied with in Philly.



Bill Fritz, Marty Esworthy, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, Christine O’Leary Rocky, g emil reutter and Jack Veasey


. Books by Jack Veasey

The Dance That Begins And Begins: Selected Poems: 1973-2013

Shapely: Selected Formal Poems

Jack Veasey’s Page on Amazon



Jack Veasey reads at the Lancaster Poetry Exchange

Jack provided this advice to new poets on the scene:

Write and read as much as you can. Pursue what you are genuinely drawn to – don’t subscribe to anything because someone else tells that you “should.“ Originality comes from being true to your own real perspective.


Jack Veasey reads at Ryerss Museum in Philadelphia


What others have said about Jack Veasey: ( From PA Book)

David A. Warner of The Philadelphia City Paper “Jack Veasey’s poetry lets you know from the outset that the poor are the people he sings about, and that’s that. His strongest poems are spare, sympathetic portraits that reveal whole histories of loneliness in small details. These are deceptively simple, surprisingly resonant poems.”

Christopher Bursk described Jack as “A brave and authentic poet.”

In an article by PennLive writer Steve Marroni, Veasey’s friend “[Rick] Kearns said that he not only respected Veasey as a poet, but he respected him for his kindness, sincerity, and his willingness to help other poets, too.”



Jack Veasey reads in open at Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel


A memorial reading will be held at the Rooted Artist Collective in York, Pa. tonight at 7 p.m. The address is 101 North Newberry Street, York Pa.

Links to Jack Veasey:

Poets and Writers:


Penn Live Obit:

Penn Live Profile:

10 Questions for Jack Veasey:

Pa Books:



Jack Veasey at the Midtown Cinema

By Jack Veasey
We should wait till after dark, you said,
And I agreed.
I had gone there in the afternoon,
after she stopped breathing,
after we stopped crying
and holding on to each other
as we could not hold on to her.
On both sides of the bridge,
There were signs everywhere:
No place where you could walk
Right to the edge of the water.
Neighbors we’ve never met
Own every inch of the world
On that side of the tracks.
We passed the last house.
I lead the way.
A camper was parked in the front yard,
Not far from the river.
All its lights were on,
The canopy extended,
A card table and two lawn chairs
Set outside, as if the occupants
Would be right back.
Dogs barked somewhere
On the property
To warn them we were passing.
We would not want them
To notice us. Thank God
It would be darker
On the bridge.
You carried her
Wrapped in a pink baby blanket.
The bridge curved uphill.
If it had been lighter,
You could see the water
Through the slats under our feet. Cars hissed by us
With high beams, one low stone wall
Between us and them, another
Between us and the river.
We were almost at the center,
At the top,
When an egret swooped over us. –
Only a yard or two above us, a huge black shadow
Set against the sky’s dim glow.
Both of us gasped
At the sight.
We know it meant something.
You told me later
That was when you knew
That everything would be all right.
You opened the blanket so we could see her,
Touch her, say goodbye.
I stroked her fur, afraid she would feel stiff.
She didn’t. She felt like herself,
Though so utterly still.
She had lived with us seven years.
We couldn’t afford a cremation.
There was no place private
We could bury her;
We rent our shred
Of the town.
But we would give her
To the universe, to nature.
I told her that we loved her
And we always would, hoping
Her spirit would hear me,
Wherever it was.
We had decided we would keep
The blanket to remember her.
You let her drop.
It seemed the fall
Took an impossibly long time.
Her small body
Made a large splash.
We held each other
Once more, wept again
For a few minutes. Then
We turned away to take
The dark walk home.
And yes, I will confess
I did look back, searching
For that shadow in the sky.

Published in the Winter 2015 Edition of The Fox Chase Review


Photographs courtesy of Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel,  Harrisburg News, The Fox Chase Review, Anna X Jones, Rooted Open Mic


g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here: About g emil reutter



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