by Jonathan Weaver
Earlier this month, a Ford City-born poet released his latest collection.
“Iconoscope,” a collection of poems written by Peter Oresick – who graduated from Ford City High in 1973 before teaching at both the high school and collegiate level – hit store shelves at the beginning of November. He retired three years ago from the faculty of Chatham University in Pittsburgh.
Oresick said his newest 35 poems (found within the book’s first section, Under the Carpathians) were written during the course of the past 10 years. He is also author or co-author of nearly a dozen other collections.
“It’s a habit – there’s no other way to put it. It’s like something you do regularly once you’re committed to the craft,” Oresick said. “I’m also a painter too, and actually, I probably paint more than I write.
“It’s just a matter of doing things you love. Art is a practice for me.”
Oresick’s painting “Madonna of the Steel Valley” is found on the front cover of his book.
Oresick – now of Pittsburgh (Highland Park) – launched his latest collection at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh and read before about 100 people in the lecture hall.
“I hope in the Spring I’ll be able to get out there and promote the book,” Oresick said.
Oresick’s first collection in 1977, “The Story of Glass,” featured many poems about his hometown and “iconoscope” also features a few from his hometown republished from his “Definitions” collection.
Oresick’s uncle, Leo, and cousin, Mark, still live in Ford City.
“Over the last 40 years, there’s been a lot of support in Ford City and Kittanning,” Oresick said.
Oresick started teaching in 1977 and retired three years ago from Chatham University. Before he retired, though, he did not use any of his works in the classroom.
“Most professors stay away from that,” Oresick said. “I’ve always performed my work when I’ve been invited to different universities, but I never used (his books) as a teaching tool.”
After graduating from high school, Oresick worked at PPG, both in his hometown and other Pennsylvania cities.
“I worked my way through college by working at PPG,” Oresick said.
Of Oresick’s three sons – William, Jake and David – son, Jake, is the only writer (a law clerk at the Washington County Courthouse) William works in the medical field in New Jersey and David is Executive Director of the Silver Eye Center for Photography in Pittsburgh.
Earlier this year, Lawrence Joseph wrote Oresick’s introduction.
“I was actually on the staff of the University of Pittsburgh Press – Mr. Joesph published his first book with Pitt, and I was his marketing director and promotional agent so we’ve known each other for decades,” Oresick said. “He is a lawyer in New York City, but we remained good friends over the years.”
Oresick’s editor, Judith Vollmer, is an English professor at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and called it an “honor” to help select which poems to include.
“We’ve never taught together, but I’ve certainly worked with Peter for many, many years,” Vollmer said. “I have trusted Peter as a close reader of my own work, we have had students in common, (and) we’ve worked on projects together.
“I’ve really known his work from the beginning. When I was a graduate student, I went to hear a reading and Peter Oresick was one of four readers,” Vollmer continued. “He was an undergraduate then, and the poems he read were very beautiful (which eventually were added to his first collection). I thought ‘I would like to meet this person’ and we did meet a few years later.”
Vollmer said Oresick provided “excellent” advice regarding her two most recent books, including “The Water Books” published in 2012. She will retire from Pitt-Greensburg at the end of the school year.
Oresick said the poems not released in “iconoscope” might be released in another collection in a few years.