Photograph by Gail Clough
JOHN TERLAZZO / A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY

 

John Terlazzo gave his first public poetry reading at Martin Memorial Library (York, PA) when he was eighteen years old. With virtually no publicity, he read his early poems to an audience numbering eighty-five that night. Out of that reading, and in the two years that followed, Terlazzo co-founded the York Poets Union, a loosely - knit group of some 300 poets & writers who presented public readings and writing workshops. A truly egalitarian group, each member had the right to call himself (or herself) "president" of the York Poets Union if that would in some way serve them.

Since that time, Terlazzo has given hundreds of poetry readings and concerts of his original songs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, and other areas of the U.S. as well as in Mexico, Canada & Europe. He has facilitated countless writing workshops for children and adults, served as poet-in -residence in the York (PA) city schools, has publicly read from, and discussed banned books for the American Library Association, has organized and hosted public readings for other poets and writers, has led poetry camping retreats, has brought his workshops to high schools, to former and present mental patients (In Vancouver, British Columbia & elsewhere), to psychologists, psychotherapists, and other helping professionals and to the general public as well. He taught his workshop, The Secret Tells Itself: Writing as a Contemplative Act at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center every Monday night for five years, and as part of the Crispus Attucks YouthBuild Program twice a week for three years.  His popular weekend Retreat, The Flame in Every Hand: Writing as a Contemplative Act happens several times a year in various parts of the country.

John has performed with various musical groups including The Widowed Horse Folk Revue, A Band of Beggars, and The New Transcendentalists, and for over 20 years now has been leader and songwriter for the ensemble Voices In The Hall. "Voices" offers up a rich array of strong vocal harmonies combined with old world instrumentation - acoustic guitars, accordion, flute, cello, mandolin, recorders & tin whistles, upright & fretless bass, percussion, piano & Hammond B3 organ. The result is a kind of Modern Surrealist Gypsy Music ( a phrase coined by an audience member after seeing the band perform in Lenox, MA) - a music that is both timeless & centering. John Terlazzo's songs and poems take us through a surreal other-worldly village terrain peopled by strange and glorious creatures - luminous antelopes, an angel with a broken trumpet, a dancing man balancing his dagger on the bridge of his nose, a blindfolded heroine on horseback whose burning hand illuminates the night, the veiled face of the Eternal. These are both love songs & mystical teaching tales, at once - and all too human, "like Marc Chagall gone aural."

Terlazzo's first album, Honor Among Thieves (1983) has recently become a kind of international curiosity when a writer in Sweden reviewed the album in a book about "folk & psychedelic music from 1965 through 1985".  As a result, the album - as well as Terlazzo's more recent works - have been selling throughout Europe, Canada and Asia (& even some in the U.S.!).  A CD re-issue of the album is set to come out in Korea & Japan, and then in the U.S. to follow.

John Terlazzo speaks and howls, dances, whispers and raves when he reads poetry, sings or teaches in a classroom or retreat center. He laughs, invites us into our Wonder and our Grief, discusses ideas with his audience then and there, "sermonizes" and apologizes, and then takes it back and laughs some more, and he invites us into thirty-some odd years of his poetry and the great works of his teachers - Yeats and Whitman, Pablo Neruda and William Blake, Rimbaud and Baudelaire, Emerson and Thoreau, Machado and Vallejo, The Beat Poets, Robert Bly and Gary Snyder, The Persian Poets - Kabir, Mirabai, Rumi, Hafez and on and on. He tells endless folk tales from the Sufis and Buddhists, the Gnostics and Hindus and Gypsies and more - and performs those tales in surreal ritual theatre style with his newly-formed Eternal Yes Theatre. He states clearly that the ability to make Art is a human birthright and that it involves primarily - "opening a place in the chest - allowing the River to flow forth".

John Terlazzo's works include:

SOME STRANGE CUNEIFORM (poems - out of print)
FIVE RED ANGELS (poem collaboration with Gary Moore - out of print)
VICIOUS INFORMATION (poems, 1978)
HONOR AMONG THIEVES (Recorded songs with Voices In The Hall, 1983))
THE ONE WHO HAS NO NAME (Recorded spoken poems, 1980-89)
THAT CHAIR IS BURNING (Recorded songs with Voices In The Hall)
THE AXE & THE LUTE (Poems, 1997)
HAND OF MERCY (Recorded songs with Voices In The Hall, 2000)
SAINT MICHEAL'S ASCENT (Novel, as yet unpublished)
LIVE IN THE EMPIRE OF FOOLS (Songs, recorded live in concert with Voices in the Hall, 2004)
THE SECRET WORK (52 Poems & One Essay, 2007)
ECSTASY & LONGING (Recorded songs with Voices in the Hall, 2008)
THE WORD (Film script, 2011)
Terlazzo, Machusick & Wegmann are presently working on their latest collection of songs, BARBARIAN HYMNS
Terlazzo is also presently involved in a collaborative album with a group of friends, called ARSENAL OF LOVE by
The Duke Street Liberation Army Band.