January 07, 2013
There’s no question that Richard Vetere ’73C has a way
with words, but it was during his student days at St. John’s
University that he truly found his poetic voice.
“My father urged me to attend St. John’s because he felt it had a
healthier environment than some of the other local colleges at the
time,” recalled Vetere, now an accomplished poet, author and
filmmaker. “But my primary reason for attending St. John’s
was that it had an excellent literary magazine, The
Sequoya. I knew that I wanted to become a poet, and Sequoya
served as a great opportunity to work on my poems, get published
and meet some terrific friends.”
After graduating in 1973 with a Bachelor of Arts in English
Literature, Vetere began a storied career in the arts, publishing
poetry collections and novels in addition to working on films. He
co-wrote the screenplay adaptation of The Third Miracle,
which starred Ed Harris and was produced by Francis Ford Coppola,
and he wrote the movies The Marriage Fool for CBS starring
Carol Burnett and Walter Matthiau and How to Go out on a Date
in Queens starring Jason Alexander.
But Vetere’s mainstream success didn’t come overnight.
“Interestingly, when I first graduated college, I took an odd job
as a security guard,” Vetere explained. “I did it for one reason: I
didn’t want to get a job that I enjoyed, one that would let me get
comfortable. So during that time as a security guard, I focused
totally on my writing.”
Vetere quickly realized that he wouldn’t be able to
support himself working exclusively as a poet, so he branched out
and started writing plays. A few of his works include Gangster
Apparel, Caravaggio, One Shot, One Kill and Bird Brain.
“Plays can be just as crazy as poetry,” he noted. “The major
difference is that plays are reviewed by the newspapers, which is
how I was able to gain some publicity as a writer. From there, I
was hired to write screenplays.”
One of his films – 1983’s Vigilante – has become a popular
cult hit and recently screened at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
during its Brooklyn Close-Up series.
But as Vetere notes, the seeds of his artistic career were planted
at St. John’s, and he recently came back to the Queens campus to
speak with students as part of the Alumni Insider’s View…Program.
In addition to reading some of his early poems –pieces he composed
while he was a student at St. John’s – he shared his insight on how
to excel in the arts.
“As I walked into the Writing Center for the event,” Vetere said,
“I was remembering all the times I’d stand right here outside St.
Augustine Hall, speaking with friends and hanging out with
classmates. Those were great days, and I even came here in the
early ’80s, as an alumnus, to research The Third
He added, “This campus is very much a part of my work and who I am,
so it’s always special when I’m back.”