Veasey, Jack*

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NAME: Jack Veasey*

Biography: Was Managing Editor of The Philadelphia Gay News, 1975-1979

Writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, The Courier-Post, Pennsylvania Magazine, Blueboy, and various other periodicals. Also served as editor of The South St. Star and FirstHand Magazine. Radio host for WXPN FM, Philadelphia and WITF FM, Harrisburg. Widely published poet.

Blog available at [blog.]

Born: 1955, in Fishtown, Philadelphia County

Vocations: Poet, Performer, Journalist, Radio Host, Teacher

Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Fishtown, Philadelphia County; Hummelstown, Dauphin County

Keywords: Pennsylvania State University; Quitting Time

Abstract: Jack Veasey was born in 1955 in Fishtown, Philadelphia. His working class environment and upbringing greatly affected the subject matter of his poetry; he writes about the working class and individuals alienated as a consequence of economic class, race, and sexual orientation. Veasey never received a degree, but he has taken courses at several different universities, and he has studied with a number of poets. In addition to poetry, Veasey is also a musician. In the past, Veasey has been a journalist, editor, arts administrator, writing teacher, and public radio host. After spending much of his life in urban environments, Veasey now lives in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania with his partner, David Walker. Jack and David have been together since 1979.


Jack Veasey was born in 1955 to Jack Veasey, a security guard, and Marie Veasey, a cleaning lady at the now defunct Schmidt’s Brewery. The family lived in Fishtown, a working-class neighborhood with a large Irish Catholic population along the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Veasey’s blue-collar roots have greatly influenced the subject matter of his poetry.

As a child, Veasey attended Catholic schools and graduated from Northeast Catholic High School. He took courses at Pennsylvania State University and other colleges; however, he has never received a degree. In Philadelphia, Veasey studied with a number of poets, including Etheridge Knight (see biography in Allegheny County), Alexandra Grilikhes, and Ted Berrigan (see biography in Montgomery County). He has been influenced by a number of poets, many of whom he has known personally. His favorite poet in general is Sylvia Plath. While a number of poets have influenced the way in which Veasey writes, he says he ultimately remains true to his own voice

Much of Veasey’s poetry relates to his feeling of alienation experienced as a gay youth and as an American citizen denied the right to have his relationship legally recognized. While Veasey’s sense of otherness is the source of his feeling of alienation from mainstream American society, he uses “otherness” as a vehicle for expression. Ultimately, Veasey has reached out to others who are similarly alienated by a wide range of factors including race, economic class, and sexual orientation.

David A. Warner of The Philadelphia City Paper gave an excellent description of Veasey’s poetry when he said:

Jack Veasey’s poetry lets you know from the outset that the poor are the people he sings about, and that’s that. His strongest poems are spare, sympathetic portraits that reveal whole histories of loneliness in small details. These are deceptively simple, surprisingly resonant poems.

Veasey’s poem, “Quitting Time” from his book of poetry of the same name has a melodic quality with repetitions of the phrase, “quitting time.” The poem begins with an argument, “Quitting Time is not always at five.” “Quitting Time” universalizes the end of a working-class individuals shift into a poem that reveals the feeling of completion after an exhausting event, perhaps the closure of an intimate relationship or the death of a loved one.

The universality of the poem is made apparent when the narrator says:

Quitting Time

is not announced

by whistles blowing,

but by screams

in your low back, your head,

your neck.

Veasey’s poem reveals that:

Quitting Time

Comes at the end

Of that one sleepless night too many,

When you look into a mirror and, instead of a reflection, see

A shadow.

Ultimately, the poem reveals shows how the dramatic release after an emotionally exhausting event is completely necessary and important to the overall process of healing. The narrator informs the audience that:

No matter how you grit your teeth

And clench your fists, this thing called

Quitting Time

Will save your soul.

According to Veasey, he “didn’t decide to become a public poet, it chose [him], as did [his] other great love, singing.” He has written and recorded about a dozen songs for his CD, Build a Fire. Veasey’s other careers have included journalism, editorial work, arts administration, teaching writing, and serving as a public radio host in Central Pennsylvania. Currently, Veasey hosts reading at a theater and sings first tenor in two choral groups.

Veasey was first published in Painted Bride Quarterly// in Philadelphia. Since Veasey’s initial publication, he has had ten books of poetry published. His poem, “Three Mile Island Siren” was included in //Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania//, and he has poems poem in other anthologies including , //Sweet Jesus: Poems about the Ultimate Icon//; //A Loving Testimony: Remembering Loved Ones Lost to AIDS; Gay Roots;// and //Son Of The Male Muse. He has written two plays which were shown in Philadelphia and Lancaster. As a journalist, Veasey wrote hundreds ;of articles and conducted interviews with a number of well known individuals including David Lynch, Laurie Anderson, George Carlin, and Joan Baez.

His work primarily deals with being outside of mainstream American culture, what he describes as “living amid the dangers and pressures of an urban environment,” and his adjustments to transitioning into “small-town living.” Other subjects for Veasey’s poems are the different kinds of relationships individuals experience throughout their lives and being the victim of child abuse. Veasey describes the goal of his writing to be “[the recognition of] our common humanity.” Poet Christopher Bursk described Veasey as, “A brave and authentic poet.”

Veasey and his partner, David Walker, have been together for three decades. After spending much of his life in urban environments, Veasey now lives in Hummelstown, a small town not far from Three Mile Island.


  • No Time for Miracles. Bar Harbor, ME: Yardbird Books, 1989.
  • Quitting Time. Harrisburg, PA: Warm Spring Press, 1991.
  • The Moon in the Nest. New York: Crosstown Books, 2003
  • Half-Life. Reading, PA: Red Pagoda Press, 2005.


  • Duhamel, Denise and Nick Carbo. Sweet Jesus: Poems about the Ultimate Icon. Los Angeles, CA: Anthology Press, 2003.
  • Email Interview with Alan Jalowitz. 10 Nov. 2005.
  • Maddox, Marjorie and Jerry Wemple, eds. Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania. University Park, PA: Penn State UP, 2005.

This biography was prepared by Elizabeth Thompson.

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Date of Birth: April 4, 1955

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Social/Political Groups he attends/attended: Gay Activists Alliance, New Studies Poets, Unitarian Church of Harrisburg

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