Alan Catlin reviews INNOCENT POSTCARDS by John Pietaro

first published at

John Pietaro, Innocent Postcards: poetry ciphers, verse, Roadside Press, distributed by Magical Jeep, also available on Amazon, 2024, 87 pages, $15

Moving back and forth throughout the Cold War years to the present, Pietaro’s unusual but affecting collection effectively renders a state of mind that was dominated by Cold War politics.  I remember as a young child watching a goon from Wisconsin conducting a mock trial of sorts as chair of the House Unamerican Activities and thinking this mealy mouth demagogue was someone to despise as was everything he stood for. I was maybe 7 then and I didn’t know what a demagogue was but I sure as hell could recognize a hypocritical, two-faced liar in a way only kids can.  Nothing that happened since has changed my original impressions.

I grew up doing atomic air raid drills, ducking and covering under desks or assembling in the hallway where there were no windows, wondering how was this going to survive as we lived well within the blast range of an atomic bomb drop on NYC. Those were the years of above ground testing in the desert, exposing troops to the aftershocks and the radiation just to see what would happen. Those were years of naivety and innocence and the worst kind of “we don’t know what the hell we are doing” years. Not really. And we still don’t. I used to think the MAGA folks wanted to return to the 50s, assuming it was the 1950s they aspired to. I was right only about the 50s, though recent events have shown I had the wrong century. Pietaro knows all this, lived through most of it and gives us a chaotic representation of the life and times of the Cold War era.  As Ed Sanders said in an informal discussion 15 or so years ago, “I’ll put my FBI file up against anyone’s.” By which he meant size and depth. And a few years later introducing a Fugs poem/song “CIA Man” that has the line “someone is tapping my phone/line….”: he claims, they are still tapping mine. The implication was the 50s/60s  aren’t over yet. I fear he may be right. Innocent Postcards is a book for anyone who shares the same misgivings.

INNOCENT POSTCARDS by John Pietaro is available at

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