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)
Period1953–2021
SpouseRuth Epstein (divorced)
Agneta Falk
(m. 1999)
Children2

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]

Biography[edit]

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 age 87.[12][13]

Poetry[edit]

His first volume of poetry, A Correspondence of Americans, published in 1960 by Indiana University Press, included an introduction[14][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."[15] 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.[16][17] 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.[18]

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.[19]

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]

Political views[edit]

Hirschman supported the anti-war movement, the Black Panther Party,[20] and advocated for the rights of the unhoused.[2]

According to a 2006 book review, Hirschman was a Stalinist.[21] 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[22] 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]

  • (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.
  • Front Lines, City Lights Publishers, 2002.
  • Only Dreaming Sky, Manic D Press, 2007.
  • All That's Left, City Lights Publishers, 2008.
  • The Ulitsea Arcane, Nicola Viviani Edizioni, 2012.
  • Talking Leaves, Sore Dove Press, 2013.
  • Passion, Provocation and Prophecy, Swimming with Elephants Publications, 2015.

References[edit]

  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. ^ https://www.myheritage.com/research/record-10182-2504535/ruth-epstein-in-biographical-summaries-of-notable-people[bare URL]
  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. "World Poetry Loses a Great Master". World Poetry Movement. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  14. ^ Carvan John, Godfrey D. (January 22, 1961). "Explosive Element in Poet's work". St. Louis Globe Democrat. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  15. ^ Hirschman, Jack (1960). A Correspondence of Americans. Indiana University Press. p. 12. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  16. ^ "Keeping pols on their toes". Newsday. June 10, 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  17. ^ "Newsmakers: Jack Hirschman". The San Francisco Examiner. July 30, 2008. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  18. ^ SFGate.com
  19. ^ "San Francisco International Poetry Festival 2007". Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  20. ^ 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
  21. ^ 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."
  22. ^ "Red Poet". imdb. Retrieved August 23, 2021.

External links[edit]