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February, 2006

Revolutionary poet Jack Hirschman declared San Francisco Poet Laureate

By Sarah Menefee

book cover Thursday, January 12, 2006 was a momentous day for the people of San Francisco, for poetry, truth and struggle, and for humanity everywhere. On this day, at a press conference held in the Mayor's office, our friend and comrade, "social activist and communist" (SF Chronicle) Jack Hirschman was declared Poet Laureate of the city of San Francisco. Later that day, as his first '"official" act, he read his poetry and that of the 75 year-old Native American Clarence Ray Allen, soon to be executed at San Quentin, at a demonstration at the nearby State Building.

In the Mayor's chambers, this people's poet, beloved and renowned from the streets of homeless struggle to the worlds of international poetry festivals, read one of the great defining condemnations of homelessness and the system that creates and perpetuates it, his poem '"Home", bringing tears to the eyes of the all of us packed into those chambers.

Jack (in word and deed) has been for many decades one of the most uncompromising voices of the transformative power of revolutionary struggle through his own poetry of unequalled mastery and power, and through his untiring work of translation from the global poetries of struggle. He has stood with the poorest of the poor, gone to jail many times in civil disobedience actions, and been the voice of this always, in the most humble, brotherly and yet transcendent way. He has cracked apart the lie that art belongs to privilege, and his work lifts the moment into the future, even as it stands in the struggles of the present. But he says it better than I could hope to. Here is part of the statement he read at the press conference:

"Philosophically, I am an internationalist who knows that neither homelessness and poverty globally and specifically here in San Francisco, which the Mayor is much concerned with, as well as war and street violence, will never end until and unless the wealth of this world is re-distributed and/or appropriated for the benefit of all, according to our needs as human beings. All of my poetry and intellectual expression is in one way or another directed to that end. And since I believe that all human beings are poets in fact, and that the writing of a poem is the most powerful action given humankind (because unbuyable and unsellable in essence, and because a child of five years and a man or woman of seventy years, in the act of writing a poem, evoke the quality that is love at the heart of the world), I write to unfold the future of that equality with all my brother and sister human beings." (Jack Hirschman)

Jack's friend, former progressive President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Matt Gonzalez, who is also Jack's bibliographer, remarked: "It was sort of like conferring on him this title that people have already given him. He is the poet laureate." The People's Laureate!

(Jack's books, over 100 of his own poetry and his translations from nine languages, include The Bottom Line, Endless Threshold, Front Lines, Fists on Fire and I Was Born Murdered. His work can be read at Poetry for a New America at http://www.lrna.org. He is a founding member of The League of Revolutionaries for a New America. He is a member of Speakers for a New America. He writes for and distributes the People's Tribune).

Call 800-691-6888 or email info@speakersforanewamerica.com to book Jack Hirschman.


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