The Poet Jack Hirschman Sleeps Like a Log
For the Swedish artist, Agneta Falk, his alter ego
I met the poet Jack Hirschman at a lecture in his native city, New York, in 1993. Jayne Cortez led me to the table where he was signing copies of his book of poems. We were able to exchange a smile, books, and that desire – which never died in him – to change the world; to improve it through his poetry. All of his infancy and youth took place in the Big Apple; however, in 1973, he established himself in the beautiful city of San Francisco, California.
Jack wrote every day, but writing was not his only daily necessity. Rather, with great individual conscientiousness, he incorporated himself in the most prestigious circles of poets in the country. His vocation generated unprecedented forms of organizing gatherings in order to bring together the most diverse expressions of poetry; however, Jack found in all of them a common denominator: a feeling of objection, at least when faced with oppression and inequality; at the same time one in favor of a better world. (He was) an indescribable editor of anthologies – that are classics today – a translator, and a tireless promoter. The work and poetic process of Jack Hirschman took hold in the most legitimized pillars of the Bay Area identity. As Opal Palmer Diesa, a young Jamaican poet would say,” Jack was an immense poet who was respectful and because of that he encouraged diversity and inclusion.”
In 2017, it was Jack who took me to the home of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, not far from his own in North Beach. There we ate huge strawberries and exchanged quotes from Walt Whitman, Gregory Corso, Martin Espada and we enjoyed the beauty of it.
Jack was and is a militant of poetry and saw it as food for the spirit and a tool that is able to revert the unbalanced order of the world. For that reason, his verse is antiwar, anti-colonialism and reveals itself as a signal, not only a virtual one, against the imminent decadence of the empire. I admire one of his most recent series of poems titled The Arcanes. In its moving pages we breathe the hope of changing the universe that so alienates us from the human condition; without which we cannot obtain any utopia, as beautiful as it may be.
The news of his passing came to me through friends. Jack had left home for a city not very far away, to read poems; as we know, he was a fervent participant in the World Poetry Movement. After a long session that took place at the Half Moon, he arrived at his home in North Beach and threw himself on the bed, somewhat tired, to catch his breath and face the everyday things of life. And then, the poet Jack Hirschman, without knowing it, said goodbye to the world, and to us, as he sleeps like a log.
La Habana (Cuba), August 23, 2021
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