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Peter Bushyeager reads at Unnameable Books

When I went to Brooklyn to see Peter Bushyeager read at Unnameable Books, I had to take two trains to get there, plus a long walk along Vanderbilt Avenue, but the bookstore is worth getting to, a really wonderful spot for those who like to look for books—there are rows, and shelves and stacks of them, folks!—and the readings there are good held outside in a comfortable backyard behind the bookstore when the weather is nice. It had been a long time since I heard Peter read so I was looking forward to it because he is a reader who knows his work well, and I knew the occasion even before it started was going to be worthwhile. It is so good to have a few things in life that one can count on.

I have known Peter Bushyeager for forty-two years, which seems kind of incredible, and I even knew him before I knew him because I read a poem of his in an article in Philadelphia Magazine in 1974 about the poetry scene that was going on there, which changed my itinerary—I was in the middle of deciding where to go because I could not stay where I was, my parents’ home, recovering from hepatitis after a trip through South America. I’d just gotten back from Peru; I wanted to be a poet and hang out where poets do, and I still remember reading Peter’s poem thinking that if poems like that were being written in Philadelphia than Philadelphia was the place to go.

I researched and found the article again—yes, it exists, and there was Peter’s poem still in it. He worked in the probation department for Camden County, New Jersey at the time and the poem was about that, published without a title:

I am so dreamy I melt the bars
on this cell
You are always sending moustached
women with
briefcases and
leaving the tv on.
No I wasn’t hoarse after supper.
I didn’t flash a butcher knife for
mental treatment.
I didn’t rob the parrish
and raise my
track marked arms
above the altar.
What do you know?
I steal cars because they’re fast
and smooth and
they take me to Mary.

Hot Water Review

In Philadelphia in the 1970s, Peter and Joel Colten published Hot Water Review, a magazine that featured not only Philly poets, but out-of-towners as well—Andrei Codrescu comes to mind. The thriving poetry scene in Philadelphia today owes a debt of gratitude to poets like Peter and Joel who laid down the foundations back then.

Here is a link right now about Hot Water Review:


In 2002 Peter had a book of poems published, Citadel Luncheonette. I can hear another book coming in the reading above. In the new year, 2018, I want to record Peter reading from Citadel Luncheonette, and work with him on a blog post about Hot Water Review, perhaps with some of the poets who were published back then reading the poems they wrote back then, which I look forward to. Stay tuned.

Peter Bushyeager

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