Sharp Lit

Established in the mid-’70s, Hemingway's summer series brings together big-name local authors and up-and-coming poets.




 

Oakland in the summertime is a beast of a different stripe. The hubbub and bustle that comes with being a college town settles to a low simmer in the absence of the students. The Cathedral of Learning lawn sunbathers and Frisbee tossers take over, and traffic on Forbes and Fifth thins out. But Oakland is no ghost town. Visitors file in from all over to check out the Carnegie Museums and Phipps Conservatory, picnic in Schenley Park and visit the shops on Craig Street. And every Tuesday night from May through July, crowds gather in the back room of an unassuming pub.

At Hemingway’s Café, a grand tradition of Pittsburgh literary culture has continued unabated since the mid-1970s. The café’s summer reading series attracts some of the finest voices in the city to share their work with an appreciative, attentive audience. Run from the beginning by poet Jimmy Cvetic, the reading series has been going strong for nearly 40 years.

“Bruce Dobler and Ed Ochester were running the Pitt series, and they wanted to continue it in the summer,” Cvetic says. “I had no ties to Pitt, CMU or Duquesne. Being as I was neutral, they asked me to do it — they didn’t want to overload it with readers from any one group. We’ve always guarded against that.”

This openness to all is one of the hallmarks of the series. On any given Tuesday, you can hear writers affiliated with long-established groups (like The Pittsburgh Poetry Society) side by side with folks associated with the academic scene of the university writing departments and smaller, looser confederations (like the Six Gallery and Autumn House presses).

For the past several years, Cvetic’s right hand in curating the series has been poet Joan Bauer, who “makes sure the poets know how many minutes they can read and ensures that everyone’s name and credits are spelled right [on the schedule].”

The two work collaboratively to produce a full and varied schedule every summer. Bauer handles the promotion and maintains an online presence, while Cvetic (the charmer) remains front and center at the events; he stands with a mic in hand, playing host and giving every reader welcoming, and often hilarious, introductions — essentially putting everyone at ease.

Since it’d be impossible to feature everyone who wants to read on an evening’s bill, the pair offers an open mic after the scheduled poets finish. The upside to being bold and talking in front of the crowd is that many poets are asked to come back later as featured readers.

The series has developed a loyal core of attendees. Most evenings, poets such as Edna Machesney and Lucille Seibert come out as readers and as enthusiastic members of the audience.

Renée Alberts, founder of the Carnegie Library Sunday Poetry & Reading Series, says that she discovered the series while in school and “saw [it] as the mark of being recognized as a poet in the city.”

“I wanted to read for it so badly,” she remembers. “It was a real honor when Joan invited me last year. It’s completely unpretentious. I love how all summer long you can squeeze through this crowded bar and find an oasis of poetry in the back room.”

Fred Peterson, past president of the Pittsburgh Poetry Society, is also a regular attendee who supplies the microphone and PA system (along with the help of the Society, of course).

“As far as the poets are concerned, I am constantly amazed at the quality and variety, as well as the selflessness of most,” Peterson says. “When I see poets come not just to read, but to listen to others read, it makes me realize that we are all part of a community of poets and lovers of poetry.”

Looking back at the series, “it’s the fair play of it all” that Cvetic takes the most pride in. “It’s never been a place of exclusion,” he says. “I’ve included as many poets as possible. We invite everyone to come out — it’s fun!”

Hemingway’s Summer Reading Series
Tuesdays, May 1-July 31
(3911 Forbes Ave., Oakland, 412/621-4100, pghpoetryexchange.pghfree.net)

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

After 60 years of supplying Pittsburgh oddities and party favors, the staff of Feinberg’s in the Strip District says they’ll miss the love the city has shown them.
Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

If you’re on the hunt for Friday night plans with a purpose, consider sleeping outside to benefit those in Pittsburgh who have to spend every night on the streets.
The Fascinating History of the David McCullough Bridge

The Fascinating History of the David McCullough Bridge

More than 80 years after its demise was erroneously reported, the David McCullough Bridge still stands as an engineering and architectural highlight among the city’s many spans.
Gone Viral: Duquesne Students Score Big With Rat Slapshot

Gone Viral: Duquesne Students Score Big With Rat Slapshot

Their tic-tac-toe passing would impress Mike Sullivan.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

In a year when youth-hockey participation is expected to increase, Pittsburgh Penguins players weigh in on the role of the hockey parent.
Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

There’s a magical, snowy landscape right in your backyard.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

After 60 years of supplying Pittsburgh oddities and party favors, the staff of Feinberg’s in the Strip District says they’ll miss the love the city has shown them.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

It's the third year running for the concept, which was created by Simon Huntley of Pittsburgh's Small Farm Central.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

The one-of-a-kind night of bingo, trivia and madcap monologues returns in a new spot.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

The Hanson Brothers and other stars of the classic hockey film will return to Johnstown this weekend for a 40th anniversary celebration.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Chalk It Up

Chalk It Up

Doodle while you dine, or let your imagination run wild, with chalkboard placemats from Pittsburgh-based Chalk Lots.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Breaking down what we know and only think we know about the 2017 Academy Awards.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

This couple’s centerpiece from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings shines brighter than the traditional table bouquet.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Columbus-based store, where you can customize your own candle fragrance, is expected to open in March.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

An art director from Warner Bros. Studios will visit La Roche College to talk about the Oscar-nominated film with ties to Pittsburgh.

Comments