Jack Hirschman – December 13, 1933 – August 22, 2021

Jack Hirschman reads his poetry at The Imagination of American Poets at the San Francisco Public Library, 2018. From YouTube.

JACK HIRSCHMAN

(December 13, 1933 – August 22, 2021) 

By Sarah Menefee, People’s Tribune Editorial Board member

The world and the movement for social transformation has suffered the loss of one of its great lights and souls with the passing, in his sleep, of the revolutionary visionary poet and organizer Jack Hirschman. Internationally honored and loved, translator from more than 14 languages — from Albanian to Yiddish — along with many dozens of books of his own stupendously masterful poetry, including four volumes of his longer Arcanes, each a thousand pages. Impossible to list his achievements here.

Outpourings of grief and of remembrance are sounding around the globe. Jack took his visionary poetry many times to Italy (where his work is published by Multimedia Edizioni), France, Columbia, Peru, Iraq, Haiti, China, to name just some of them. But most treasured was his universal kindness, in practice of what he (with others) envisioned as a loving social order, and gave his life in the service of, and manifested in his actions, in every moment of his brilliant and heart-centered life. We mourn his passing but are left with his stupendous body of work, some of the greatest poetry ever written, with its positive forward vision, along with his fiery exposure and condemnation of the cruelties of a dying and mean system of exploitation. And our precious memories of him as friend and dear comrade.

A journalist with the AP while still in his teens, Jack was for decades a frequent contributor to the People’s Tribune, with his poetry and articles. He called himself the ‘oldest paperboy’ because for many years he sold the people’s paper in the streets and cafes of his beloved North Beach, at readings, protests, housing takeovers, marches, and on his travels.

Jack was the Fourth Poet Laureate of San Francisco, during which time he organized three large International Poetry Festivals, and continued ten years beyond his tenure by organizing weekly poetry readings with the Friends of the Library, and yearly readings in the neighborhood libraries. He was a founding member of too many organizations to list:  among them the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, the Union of Left Writers, the Roque Dalton Cultural Brigade, the Revolutionary Poets Brigade, and was most recently made the head of the World Poetry Movement. His renown is international.

He was a great soul who put his life in the service of social transformation in its highest practice. He always said that we are all poets. And he knew that all spirits wanted a better way to be human together. He brought out the best self in everyone he touched. He embodied the revolution we all envision. He showed what it was to be exalted and humble at the same time: to soar, dream and sing to the highest visionary heaven, and to walk on the earth and take care of each other, especially the suffering, to give attention and to lift up. To love.

Jack Hirschman presente!


Song

By Jack Hirschman

Lift it!
Lift its body
spat-upon and scorned
these many months.
Haven’t you ever
lifted
a woman fallen to the street,
a man lying on the sidewalk,
a child ganged-up on.
arms on the ground
protecting his head
from the kicks?

The song’s the same.
Lift it! Raise it up.
Let its cuts and wounds
have some air.
It’s not dead.
It’ll never die.
Beaten, chained, slandered,
— look, it’s reaching
for your voice.
Lift it.
Let it rise in its place.
The Internationale
shall be the human race

From Endless Threshold, Curbstone Press, 1992

 


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