July 14, 2009

Review: Hemingway's Summer Reading Series

Pittsburgh has enjoyed quite the regeneration over the past decade. Its economic and cultural success has been well documented, having been profiled in New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, and by its oft-touted “Most Livable City” tag applied by multiple publications, including The Economist. To think that Pittsburgh hit its cultural stride in recent years is a great disservice to the talents and dedication of many people who have done a lot to make Pittsburgh the artistic community it is today. Among these residents is Jimmy Cvetic, who founded the weekly Hemingway’s Summer Reading Series in 1974.

Despite is Literary-inspired moniker, Hemingway’s Café in Oakland, one of the most popular college bars in the city, is the last place one might expect to find a poetry reading. Honestly, when I’ve told people where I’m off to on Tuesday evenings throughout the summer, I’m usually met with a raised eyebrow or an awkward laugh – people think I’m making a joke about an evening of drinking, when in fact, I’m off to be a part of one of the most fun and longest-running reading series in the city. Yet every Tuesday evening at 8:00pm, the back room of the bar fills up, as Jimmy and fellow series-operator Fred Peterson flip on the P.A. System and the reading begins.

Thanks in part to its storied history, the Hemingway’s Summer Reading Series enjoys a very diverse crowd each week. The line-up always features three or four featured poets, usually local artists of varying ages and styles, which helps add to the atmosphere. A waitress hustles with plates and drinks between readers, and the mood is always inviting and good-humored – 34 years of a reading series makes for a lot of regulars, and a lot of friends! The Hemingway’s Series prides itself on being inclusive, which helps create its terrific feeling of community. To this end, each week has an open mic to conclude the reading – anyone in attendance is welcomed to read a poem or two.

The Hemingway’s Summer Reading Series continues each Tuesday evening at 8:00pm through July 28. This week’s reading features Jessica Jopp, Cvetka Lipuš, and Michael Simms. There is no cover for admission.

Review by Joel W. Coggins.

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