Jack Hirschman

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Jack Hirschman
At Caffe Trieste, 2016
At Caffe Trieste, 2016
Born(1933-12-13)December 13, 1933[1]
New York City, U.S.
DiedAugust 22, 2021(2021-08-22) (aged 87)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
OccupationPoet, writer, essayist, social activist
EducationCity College of New York (BA)
Indiana University (MA, PhD)
SpouseRuth Epstein (divorced)
Agneta Falk
(m. 1999)

Jack Hirschman (December 13, 1933 – August 22, 2021)[1] was an American poet and social activist who wrote more than 100 volumes of poetry and essays.[2][3]


Saxophonists Art Pepper (left) and Dexter Gordon (right) chat with North Beach poet Jack Hirschman (center) at the bar of jazz club Keystone Korner, San Francisco (October 31, 1981)

Hirschman was born in New York City to a Russian Jewish family.[4] He received a B.A. from the City College of New York in 1955 and an M.A. (1957) and Ph.D. (1961) from Indiana University.[5] While attending City College, he worked as a copy boy for the Associated Press.[3][6] When he was 19, he sent a story to Ernest Hemingway, who responded: "I can't help you, kid. You write better than I did when I was 19. But the hell of it is, you write like me. That is no sin. But you won't get anywhere with it."[7][8][6] Hirschman left a copy of the letter with the Associated Press, and when Hemingway killed himself in 1961, the "Letter to a Young Writer" was distributed by the wire service and published all over the world.[9][8]

Beppe Costa with Leonardo Omar Onida, Jack Hirschman and Paul Polansky in civic Theatre during Ottobre in poesia festival, Sassari, Italy (2011)

In 1954, Hirschman married Ruth Epstein,[3] whom he'd met and dated when they were students at CCNY.[10] Following graduation, Ruth became a program director for KPFK and eventually general manager of Santa Monica public radio station KCRW. The couple had two children, David and Celia.[2]

In the 1950s and 60s, Hirschman taught at Dartmouth College and the University of California, Los Angeles. During his tenure at UCLA, one of the students enrolled in his class was Jim Morrison, later to be a cofounder and lead vocalist of the American band The Doors.[9] The Vietnam War, however, put an end to Hirschman's academic career;[3] he was fired from UCLA after encouraging his students to resist the draft.[6][5] His marriage disintegrated, and he moved to San Francisco in 1973.[3]

For a quarter century, Hirschman roamed San Francisco[3] streets, cafes (including Caffe Trieste,[11] where he has been a regular patron), and readings, becoming an active street poet and a peripatetic activist. Hirschman was also a painter and collagist.[3]

Jack Hirschman and Agneta Falk at Caffe Trieste (July 2013)

In June 1999, Hirschman married the Swedish poet, writer and artist Agneta Falk.[3]

Hirschman died at his home in San Francisco, on August 22, 2021, at the age of 87.[12][13] He had tested positive for COVID-19.[14]


His first volume of poetry, A Correspondence of Americans, published in 1960 by Indiana University Press, included an introduction[15][8][7] by Karl Shapiro: "What a relief to find a poet who is not afraid of the vulgar or the sentimental, who can burst out laughing or cry his head off in poetry – who can make love to language, or kick it in the pants."[16] Among his many volumes of poetry are A Correspondence of Americans (Indiana U. Press, 1960), Black Alephs (Trigram Press, 1969), Lyripol (City Lights, 1976), The Bottom Line (Curbstone, 1988), and Endless Threshold (Curbstone, 1992). He also translated over two dozen books into English from languages including Hebrew, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Persian, Russian, Albanian, and Greek.[3]

Jack Hirschman with Polish American translator Janusz Zalewski at City Lights Bookstore Beats Festival, San Francisco (2007)

In 2006, Hirschman released his most extensive collection of poems yet, The Arcanes.[4] Published in Salerno, Italy by Multimedia Edizioni, The Arcanes comprises 126 long poems spanning 34 years.

Additionally, in 2006, Hirschman was appointed Poet Laureate of San Francisco by Mayor Gavin Newsom.[17][18] In his Poet Laureate inaugural address, Hirschman envisioned creating an International Poetry Festival in San Francisco, reprising a great tradition from the City's literary past.[19]

In July 2007, Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Hirschman, and the San Francisco Public Library presented their first San Francisco International Poetry Festival.[20]

Hirschman was named Poet-in-Residence with Friends of the San Francisco Public Library in 2009.[4] Hirschman continued his work supporting the literary community and was the key organizer for the now biennial San Francisco International Poetry Festival.[4]

From 2007 Festival on, Hirschman, in partnership with Friends of the San Francisco Public Library and the San Francisco Public Library, have presented smaller poetry festivals in a variety of languages, including the Latino Poetry Festival, the Vietnamese Poetry Festival, and the Iranian Arts Poetry Festival.

Hirschman curated the Poets 11 Anthology, which collected poetry from each of the City's 11 districts.[4]

Hirschman was a long time mentor to author and actress Amber Tamblyn.[21]

Political views[edit]

Jack Hirschman speaks at Book Passage in Marin County

Hirschman supported the anti-war movement, the Black Panther Party,[22] and advocated for the rights of the unhoused.[2]

According to a 2006 book review, Hirschman was a Stalinist.[23] Hirschman translated the youthful poems of Joseph Stalin into English[12][5] (Joey: The Poems of Joseph Stalin; Deliriodendron Press, 2001). He was an assistant editor at the left-wing literary journal Left Curve[12] and was a correspondent for The People's Tribune. He was active with the Revolutionary Poets Brigade.[4] Hirschman is profiled in the 2009 documentary Red Poet[24] in which he identifies as a Marxist-Leninist. He stated in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, “The most important thing as a poet is that I worked for the Communist movement for 45 years, and the new class of impoverished and homeless people.”[2]

Selected works[edit]


  • A Correspondence of Americans Indiana University Press, 1960.
  • (With Franz Kline) Kline Sky, The Zora Gallery, 1965.
  • Yod, Trigram Press, 1966.
  • Black Alephs: Poems, 1960-1968, Phoenix Bookshop, 1969.
  • HNYC, R. Tamblyn Skyline Press, 1971.
  • The Burning of Los Angeles, J'Ose Press, 1971.
  • Endless Threshold, Curbstone Press, 1992. ISBN 9781880684009
  • Front Lines, City Lights Publishers, 2002. ISBN 9780872864009
  • Only Dreaming Sky, Manic D Press, 2007. ISBN 9781933149134
  • All That's Left, City Lights Publishers, 2008. ISBN 9781931404082
  • The Ulitsea Arcane, Nicola Viviani Edizioni, 2012.
  • Talking Leaves, Sore Dove Press, 2013.
  • Passion, Provocation and Prophecy, Swimming with Elephants Publications, 2015.
  • The Arcanes : 2006-2016 Multimedia Edizioni, 2016. ISBN 9788886203456


  • Revolutionary Poets Brigade (Volume 1) Caza de Poesía, 2010. ISBN 9781936293254
  • Poets 11 Anthology 2012 Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, 2016. ISBN 9781482331295
  • (with Falk, Agneta) Heartfire: 2nd Revolutionary Poets Brigade anthology Kallatumba Press, 2013. ISBN 9780578127354
  • (with Curl, John) Overthrowing capitalism : a symposium of poets Kallatumba Press, 2014. ISBN 9781502304520
  • (with Curl, John) Overthrowing capitalism. Volume two, Beyond endless war, racist police, sexist elites Kallatumba Press, 2015. ISBN 9781517596507
  • (with Curl, John) Overthrowing capitalism. Volume three, Reclaiming community Kallatumba Press, 2016. ISBN 9781537516790
  • Poets 11 Anthology 2016 Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, 2016. ISBN 9781537374604
  • (with Curl, John and Falk, Agneta) Overthrowing capitalism. Volume four Kallatumba Press, 2017. ISBN 9781977685384
  • (with Curl, John) Building Socialism: World Multilingual Poetry from the Revolutionary Poets Brigade Homeward Press, 2020. ISBN 9780938392149
  • (with Curl, John) Building Socialism, Volume 2 - Fighting Fascism Homeward Press, 2021. ISBN 9780938392156


  • Artaud, Antonin Antonin Artaud anthology City Lights Publishers, 1965. ISBN 9780872860001
  • Dalton, Roque, Poemas Clandestinos Clandestine Poems Solidarity Publications, 1984. ISBN 9780942638073
  • (with Mark Eisner, John Felstiner, Forrest Gander, Robert Hass, Stephen Kessler, Stephen Mitchell, and Alastair Reid) Neruda, Pablo, The Essential Neruda City Lights Publishers, 2004. ISBN 9780872864283
  • Pasolini, Pier Pablo, In Danger : a Pasolini anthology City Lights Publishers, 2010. ISBN 9780872865075
  • Sénac, Jean, Citizens of Beauty : Poems of Jean Sénac Michigan State University Press, 2016. ISBN 9781609174859


  1. ^ a b "Happy Birthday". San Francisco Examiner. December 13, 2016. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Whiting, Sam (August 22, 2021). "Jack Hirschman, Marxist poet and North Beach fixture dies at 87". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Weiss, Mike (March 20, 2000). "Dean of SF Marxist poetry Jack Hirschman is lauded abroad unknown at home". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Prolific S.F. poet finds wisdom in Communism, Kabbalah". J Weekly. April 4, 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "Hirschman, Jack b. 1933". Dartmouth Library Archives & Manuscripts. Retrieved June 13, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Norton, Justin (June 29, 2006). "Jack Hirschman is the last of Beat Generation poets". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 18, 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Hemingway told Kid not to write like him". Statesman Journal. July 3, 1961. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c "Hemingway Took Time to Aid Aspiring Writer". The Morning News (Wilmington, Delaware). July 3, 1961. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  9. ^ a b Spear, Rosalie (January 18, 2018). "POET JACK HIRSCHMAN TALKS HEMINGWAY, JIM MORRISON AND VEGAS PLANS". Las Vegas Weekly. Las Vegas, NV. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  10. ^ "Ruth Epstein". MyHeritage. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  11. ^ Adams, John (May 15, 1978). "Area Poets to Gather for 3 day conference". The Berkeley Gazette. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  12. ^ a b c Bartlett, Amanda (August 22, 2021). "Famed San Francisco poet and activist Jack Hirschman dies, reports group he co-founded". SF Gate. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  13. ^ Behramoglu, Ataol (August 22, 2021). "World Poetry Loses a Great Master". World Poetry Movement. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  14. ^ Sullivan, Denise (September 26, 2021). "Agneta Falk on Jack Hirschman's arcane life and love". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved May 29, 2023.
  15. ^ Carvan John, Godfrey D. (January 22, 1961). "Explosive Element in Poet's work". St. Louis Globe Democrat. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  16. ^ Hirschman, Jack (1960). A Correspondence of Americans. Indiana University Press. p. 12. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  17. ^ "Keeping pols on their toes". Newsday. June 10, 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  18. ^ "Newsmakers: Jack Hirschman". The San Francisco Examiner. July 30, 2008. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  19. ^ SFGate.com
  20. ^ "San Francisco International Poetry Festival 2007". Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  21. ^ "Actor Amber Tamblyn remembers poet Jack Hirschman as mentor with 'integrity beyond reproach'".
  22. ^ Jack Hirschman, l'ultimo dei Beat smitizza la Beat Generation e dice no alla Guerra: Sempre, archived from the original on December 19, 2021, retrieved August 23, 2021
  23. ^ Kaufman, Alan. "Superb landscapes full of horrible glory", San Francisco Chronicle (November 12, 2006): "A die-hard Stalinist Communist, he is also a virtuoso kabbalah scholar who, as a Yiddish-inflected Jew and artist, would probably have been executed – alongside such figures as Isaac Babel and Osip Mandelstam – in the Soviet Union about which he so fervently rhapsodizes."
  24. ^ "Red Poet". imdb. Retrieved August 23, 2021.

External links[edit]