It is National Poetry Month and cause to remember Justin Vitiello, Poet and Professor Emeritus of Italian at Temple University who was an intricate part of the poetry scene in the City of Philadelphia. He passed away on October 17, 2013.
Vitiello traveled the globe, published over twenty works of poetry and essays in English, Spanish and Italian. A peace activist, Vitiello was active in the Civil Rights movement and Anti-War movements during the Vietnam era, protested the proliferation of nuclear weapons during the cold war, boldly stood as a non-violent reformer to the Mafia in Sicily and conducted research for the Ghandi Peace Foundation in India. In the midst of this whirlwind of activity in 2006 Vitiello began to curate the long running Moonstone Poetry Series at Robins Bookstore in Philadelphia giving full credit as always to the Robin family and Herschell Baron.
He provided a stage for new and established poets, mentored hundreds of poets and provided beautiful works for others to read. A citizen of the globe, born in NYC, Vitiello remained happily in Philadelphia, although all and all he would have rather been in Spain.
He once said, “Well Shelley said poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. But I’m not so optimistic. Many poets die unappreciated.” Vitiello was influenced early in life by Lorca, Antonio Machado, Ungaretti, (all of whom he had translated), and Dylan Thomas, yet as he developed his craft his own voice began to emerge. He said of all his collections, translations his favorites were poppies and thistles and Vanzetti’s Fish Cart. Vitiello was proud of the fact that all his collections and all his poems were unique, for Justin Vitiello never repeated himself, considering them all his “babies”.
Poet and publisher Lamont B. Steptoe was a friend of Justin Vitiello. He published poppies and thistles (1963-2004), by Vitiello under his Whirlwind Press. Steptoe said of Justin Vitiello, “He was a friend and activist who believed in truth & beauty. His was an important creative voice in the latter half of the 20th Century and the first decade of the 21st Century. ” Steptoe often addressed Vitiello’s creative writing classes at Temple University and remembered Vitiello as an anarchist who distrusted all governments.
Poet ant Translator Dr. Elizabeth A. Pallitto remembered Justin Vitiello as a great teacher, mentor and writer. “Certainly Justin leaves us much-loved and much-missed. To a chorus of voices — friends, fellow poets and translators, writer-activists, and fellow workers — I add my appreciation for Justin Vitiello as a writer, colleague and a tireless worker for a better world.”
Pallitto first met Vitiello at a MLA conference. “He responded to my conference paper with generous and encouraging written comments. Similarly, his feedback on the translations in my first book, Sweet Fire: Tullia d’Aragona’s Poetry of Dialogue and Selected Prose, was invaluable. It was my privilege to give feedback on his poetry collection Poppies and Thistles and to read his many works, notably the lyrical and yet politically engaged Labyrinths and Volcanoes: Windings through Sicily.”
Justin Vitiello influenced poets in the Philadelphia area, North America and across the globe. Vitiello, in the end, was appreciated by all those he came into contact with.
Books at Amazon:
At The Fox Chase Review: http://www.foxchasereview.org/fcr/08AW/05-JustinVitiello.html
At poetic del parco: http://www.poetidelparco.it/9_159_Justin-Vitiello.html
The Temple Times Remembers:
– g emil reutter