Jack Hirschman

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Jack Hirschman
Poet Jack Hirschman 07.jpg
Poet Jack Hirschman at Caffe Trieste
Born (1933-12-13) December 13, 1933 (age 87)
New York City
OccupationPoet, writer, essayist, social activist

Jack Hirschman (born December 13, 1933) is an American poet and social activist who has written more than 50 volumes of poetry and essays.[1]


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)

Born in New York City, Hirschman 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. While attending City College, he worked as a copy boy for the Associated Press. 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." 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.[2]

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

Hirschman married Ruth Epstein, whom he'd met and dated when they were students at CCNY, in 1954.[3] 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.

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.[2] The Vietnam War, however, put an end to Hirschman's academic career; he was fired from UCLA after encouraging his students to resist the draft.[citation needed] His marriage disintegrated, and he moved to San Francisco in 1973. His first volume of poetry, published in 1960, included an introduction[citation needed] 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."[citation needed]

For a quarter century, Hirschman has roamed San Francisco streets, cafes (including Caffe Trieste, where he has been a regular patron), and readings, becoming an active street poet and a peripatetic activist. Hirschman is also a painter and collagist, and has translated over two dozen books from German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Albanian, and Greek.

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

He is an assistant editor at the left-wing literary journal Left Curve and is a correspondent for The People's Tribune. 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). According to a 2006 book review, Hirschman is a Stalinist.[4] Hirschman translated the youthful poems of Joseph Stalin into English (Joey: The Poems of Joseph Stalin [Deliriodendron Press, 2001]).

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

In June 1999, Hirschman married the Swedish poet, writer and artist Agneta Falk. In 2006, Hirschman released his most extensive collection of poems yet, The Arcanes. 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. 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.[5]

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.[6]

Hirschman was named Poet-in-Residence with Friends of the San Francisco Public Library in 2009 and currently holds that status. Hirschman continues his work supporting the literary community and is the key organizer for the now biennial San Francisco International Poetry Festival.

Since the 2007 Festival, 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 is active with the Revolutionary Poets Brigade and curates the Poets 11 Anthology, which collects poetry from each of the City's 11 districts.

Selected Works[edit]


  1. ^ SFGate.com
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ https://www.myheritage.com/research/record-10182-2504535/ruth-epstein-in-biographical-summaries-of-notable-people
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ SFGate.com
  6. ^ "San Francisco International Poetry Festival 2007". Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. Retrieved February 26, 2014.

External links[edit]