first published in the San Francisco Call, May 24, 2002; revised August 22, 2021


Photograph of Jack Hirschman at the Caffe Trieste by John Perino.


by Jack Hirschman & Matt Gonzalez

BORN IN THE BRONX, NEW YORK CITY, December 13, 1933. Son of Stephen Dannemark Hirschman and Nellie (Keller) Hirschman. Stephen Hirschman is an insurance agent and Nellie Hirschman works as a secretary.

The couple has a second child, Cynthia, born February 4, 1936. During Hirschman’s upbringing the family lives in the Bronx on Wheeler Avenue (now Amadou Diallo Street) and later Morris Avenue near Fordham Road.

Attends James Monroe and DeWitt Clinton High Schools, in the Bronx. Graduates from Clinton H.S., 1951, which is an all boy’s school. While at Clinton, Hirschman is a sports reporter for the school paper.

Painting by Hirschman (1974) in the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry.

Works as a reporter, at age 15, for two weekly newspapers: The Bronx Times and The Bronx Press-Review. While Hirschman is there, The Bronx Times is shut down by the Kefauver Crime Committee because of its bookmaking operation. On the day Hirschman and another employee are to appear at the Bronx County Courthouse on related criminal charges, they are notified that the case has been dropped and the newspaper shut down.

Works as a copy boy for the Associated Press, New York City, 1951-1955. It is a full-time night job Hirschman does after attending school during the day. He begins writing poetry and completes a novel, which he never offers for publication.

Attends Long Island University, which is known for its journalism program, for one year, 1952. Later, he transfers to City College in Harlem.

First published poetry appears: Fragments (New York: privately printed, 1953). It is printed in an edition of 75 copies at a small press near where Hirschman works for the Associated Press. Hirschman distributes the book himself, primarily to friends and family. The book is four-pages in length, containing three poems. The themes contained in this first book are a microcosm of the work Hirschman will produce in the years to come. The first poem is a verbal/visual experiment consisting of a rectangular poem, centered on the page, with letters that run down the page in an unorthodox typographical design. The second poem is a two-page love poem. The third poem is a political poem written for the “guerrillas in the mountains,” concerning the Filipino Huk and Cuban revolutionary movements. The political poem is inspired by Hemingway’s novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Copy of Fragments (New York: privately printed, 1953)

Around the time Fragments is published, Hirschman sends some stories he has written to Ernest Hemingway, who is living at Finca Villa, Cuba. Hemingway responds by encouraging Hirschman to continue writing and suggests that he read Stephen Crane, Guy de Maupassant, Ambrose Bierce, Gustave Flaubert, and the early Thomas Mann. Years later, following Hemingway’s death, the Associated Press sends out Hemingway’s letter to Hirschman on the “A” wire and it is published in newspapers around the country, including the New York Times, as “Letter to a Young Writer,” July 3, 1961.

Marries Ruth Epstein, a classmate at City College, 1954. Two children are born, David in 1956, Celia in 1958.

Jack & Ruth Hirschman, outside Cinema Theater on Western Avenue in Los Angeles, 1962. Photograph by Charles Brittin.


Two early poems, “Paschal Song” and “Look Up and Let Me Dwell in Your Grim Eyes,” appear in the Riverside Anthology of student poetry, 1955. Fellow City College schoolmates Herbert Marder, Morton Paley, and Robert Kelly are also included in the volume.

Receives a B.A. in English Literature from City College of New York, 1955. Writes a Bachelor’s dissertation “Self-Conscious Narration in Finnegan’s Wake.” He takes classes while at City College with Leonard Ehrlich, author of God’s Angry Man a fictionalized life of John Brown, and from Vivian Mercier, editor of the Oxford University Press anthology Modern Irish Literature.

Begins work on an M.A. and Ph.D. at Indiana University, Bloomington, 1955. Student Teaching Assistant: Indiana University, 1955-59, in English. At the university he meets student Clayton Eshleman and visiting artists Leon Golub and Nancy Spero. Eshleman will later publish Hirschman in his journal Caterpillar.

Clayton Eshelman’s journal, Caterpillar, issue #10, 1970, which featured work by David Antin, Paul Blackburn, Edward Dorn, Theodore Enslin, Jack Hirschman, Anselm Hollo, Robert Kelly, Philip Lamantia, Jackson Mac Low, Michael McClure, David Meltzer, Jerome Rothenberg, and Diane Wakoski.

Hirschman writes an early review of Spero’s work “Classics in Modern Art Theme of Two-Man Show,” which is published in the Indiana University newspaper, March 1958.

Receives an M.A. in English Literature from Indiana University, 1957. Master’s thesis on the anonymous Anglo-Saxon poem, The Wanderer. Hirschman is attracted to the work while learning Old English. While at Indiana University, Hirschman takes a class from literary critic Kenneth Burke and befriends French poet Robert Champigny.

In 1957 while in Indiana, Hirschman assembles a manuscript of poems written between 1954-1957. His wife Ruth, who is working as a secretary in the School of Arts and Letters at Indiana University, shows the manuscript to poet Karl Shapiro who arranges publication of the book. It ultimately appears three years later while Hirschman is teaching at Dartmouth.

Verifax collage on paper by Wallace Berman, c. 1968, used to illustrate Hirschman’s Black Alephs: Poems 1960-1968. Measures 6.5″ x 6.25″.

Also in 1957, Hirschman translates Vladimir Mayakovsky from the Russian with Victor Erlich, a visiting teacher at the School of Arts and Letters and the author of Russian Formalism. Although he does not yet know Russian, Hirschman asks Erlich to provide him with literal translations that he then puts into the American idiom. Although some of the poems appear in the Evergreen Review, the translations are not published in their entirety until 1971.

After reading Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, Hirschman sends Ginsberg one of the earliest poems written about him, “Ikon”, which is part of the poetry manuscript Hirschman has assembled. They begin a correspondence wherein Ginsberg asks to see other work and invites Hirschman to bring him the Mayakovsky translations. The two eventually meet for the first time at Ginsberg’s Lower East Side apartment in New York City in 1957. Gregory Corso is present at that first meeting.

The poem “A Correspondence of Americans” is published in the multi-lingual magazine Botteghe Oscure, in Rome, 1958. Hirschman’s work appears in the English-language section along with work by W.S. Merwin. This marks the beginning of Hirschman’s long association with Italy.

Receives a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Indiana University, 1959. Doctoral thesis entitled “The Orchestrated Novel: A study of poetic devices in the novels of Djuna Barnes and Hermann Broch, and the influence of the works of James Joyce.”

Instructor: Dartmouth College, 1959-1961, in English. Students include Michael Moriarty, Stephen Geller, and David Birney. He also befriends recent graduates David Rattray and Alden Van Buskirk. While teaching at Dartmouth College, he meets poets Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Stan Brakhage, all of whom visit the campus on reading/lecture tours. Ferlinghetti will later publish his work.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti & Jack Hirschman in San Francisco, 2011. Photograph by John Perino.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti & Jack Hirschman in San Francisco.

While at Dartmouth, Hirschman publishes the first major review of John Wieners’ The Hotel Wentley Poems, which appears in The Village Voice, 1960.

First major book of poetry published: A Correspondence of Americans (Bloomington: Indiana University, 1960), with an introduction by Karl Shapiro and with cover artwork by Leon Golub. Shapiro writes about Hirschman: “He takes the ‘forms’ as they come, whether the meters or the meanings. He takes them or leaves them. He uses American as it strikes him – as it probably is – with rich baroque gutteral, learned or New Yorkese, bombastic or tender, with the full gamut of the comedy of our unbelievable, impossible heritage.… He is neither ashamed of what he knows nor carried away by it; he is natural. 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.”

Cover of Hirschman’s A Correspondence of Americans (Bloomington: Indiana University, 1960). Cover illustration by Leon Golub.

Hirschman is encouraged to visit poet Charles Olson in Gloucester, Massachusetts by John Finch, the head of the English Department at Dartmouth, who was a roommate of Olson’s at Harvard University. Hirschman makes the trip in the spring of 1961. He and Olson speak primarily about Djuna Barnes, whom Olson met in Paris in the early 1930s. He and Hirschman meet one more time in England a few years later.

During the 1960s, Hirschman’s writing is increasingly influenced by the poetry being written by Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, and Charles Olson. Assistant Professor of English at UCLA, 1961-1966. His students at UCLA include Gary Gach, Steven Kessler, Max Schwartz, Jim Morrison, among others.

In 1962, Hirschman’s wife Ruth becomes program director of drama and literature for KPFK (Pacifica) radio. She holds the post until 1967. Hirschman is often invited to read with other poets on the radio. One of the radio shows produced is a weeklong program devoted to Antonin Artaud, whose work Hirschman begins preparing for publication in 1963.

Hirschman receives a UCLA writing grant, 1964-1965. He makes his first visit to Europe, where he visits Paris, Greece, and England. While in London, he completes the first volume of a spoken-word novel entitled JAH, which remains unpublished although selections appear in Miscellaneous Man and Caterpillar.

Cover of Artaud Anthology, which Hirschman edited (San Francisco: City Lights, 1965).

In 1965, while in Greece, Artaud Anthology, which Hirschman edits, is published by City Lights Books in San Francisco. Hirschman’s work on the volume includes selecting material and organizing translations from the French, including some of his own translations. He is assisted by others, particularly David Rattray. The most affirming review of the book is by Charles Bukowski in the Los Angeles Free Press.

Jack Hirschman & Neeli Cherkovski, 1980. Photograph by Eddie Woods.

Travels to England for 6 months. Asa Benveniste, Hirschman’s oldest literary friend, publishes YOD (London: Trigram Press, 1966). Both were born in the Bronx, two blocks apart from one another. YOD is the beginning of the Kabbalistic tendency in Hirschman’s work that will reappear in the ensuing decades. Benveniste who is a veteran of WWII, later lives in London and Yorkshire and becomes Hirschman’s primary contact in England.

Vietnam War begins in 1965 while Hirschman is in Europe.

Hirschman returns to the United States in 1965 and resumes teaching at UCLA. He begins writing against the Vietnam War in the Los Angeles Free Press and speaking out against the war on local radio stations.

Hirschman meets and collaborates with various avant-garde artists living in Los Angeles including Rico Lebrun, Lee Mullican, Galya Tarmu-Pillen, Wallace Berman, Dean Stockwell, George Herms, James Gill, Bob Alexander, and Russel Tamblyn. He meets and associates with poets Anais Nin, Stuart Perkoff, William Margolis, William Pillin, Bert Myers, Gene Frumkin, Malka Heifetz-Tussman, Alvaro Cardona-Hine, and Charles Bukowski.


A leaf from the portfolio “Two” published in Los Angeles by the Zora Gallery in 1964.

The Zora Gallery publishes three works by Hirschman: Two (Los Angeles: The Zora Gallery, 1964); Interchange (Los Angeles: The Zora Gallery, 1964) and Kline Sky (Los Angeles: The Zora Gallery, 1965). Two is a large art book with ten love poems by Hirschman and lithographs by Mexican muralist Arnold Belkin.

While teaching at UCLA, Hirschman protests the war in Vietnam. Among other things, Hirschman participates in public demonstrations, he gives “A” grades to all draft-eligible students to assist them in avoiding the war, and he gives unorthodox final exams on the Vietnam War.

Hirschman is fired by UCLA for his alleged “activities against the state,” 1966.

Hirschman’s one-sheet broadside, Wasn’t It Like, London: Cape Goliard, 1967. Published in an edition of 125 copies. Measures 7.25″ x 12.25″.

Remains in California, living in Venice, 1967-1971. Decides not to return to academia because of the increasing corporate-like nature of the university.

Cover of Hirschman’s Shekinah (San Francisco: Maya Quarto One, 1969) printed by Clifford Burke at Cranium Press in an edition of 250.

For most of 1968 he writes anti-war essays under the cover of introductions to obscene and pornographic European literature published by a pirate-printing house, Brandon House. Hirschman writes introductions to books by Bataille, Wilde, Trocchi, Van Heller, Mardaan, Daimler, and others. At times he uses the pseudonyms Geoffrey Lowndes, Steven George, and Rudolph Conway.

Cover of one of the Brandon House editions to which Hirschman contributed an introduction.

While living in a small house near the beach in Venice, he becomes increasingly isolated. He corresponds with David Meltzer, poet and editor of Tree magazine, who encourages Hirschman to continue writing and translating. Kabbalistic translations by Hirschman appear in Tree, including his translation of the Sepher Yetsira by Carlo Suares (from the French of the original Hebrew).

Cover of Tree 1, edited by David Meltzer, 1970.

Publishes Black Alephs (New York/London: Phoenix Bookshop/Trigram Press, 1969) with artwork by Wallace Berman.

Cover of Hirschman’s Black Alephs: Poems 1960-1968. Cover and inside art by Wallace Berman.

Begins collaboration with Paul Vangelisti and John McBride of Invisible City/Red Hill Press on various translation/writing projects, 1970.

Hirschman’s and Erlich’s Mayakovsky translations published under title Electric Iron (Berkeley: Maya, 1971).

Publication of Hirschman’s translation of Rene Depestre, A Rainbow for the Christian West (Los Angeles/Fairfax: The Red Hill Press, 1972) from the French. Depestre’s work turns Hirschman to Marxism. Hirschman begins to study Haitian poetry and Voodoo. He later learns Haitian Creole.

Marriage ends in 1972. Divorce, 1974.

Hirschman arrives in San Francisco, 1973. He lives in various residential hotels in North Beach and Russian Hill. Meets poets Jack Micheline and Bob Kaufman, and James Willems, editor of Isthmus magazine, all of whom introduce Hirschman to San Francisco’s literary scene. Begins working on Beatitude magazine with Luke Breit, Tom Dawson (aka Thomas Rain Crowe), and Neeli Cherkovski.

Capra Press publishes Hirschman’s Cantillations (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1974).

Cover of Hirschman’s translation of Stéphane Mallarmé’s Igitur (Los Angeles: Press of the Pegacycle Lady, 1974). Cover art by Wallace Berman. Published in an edition of 500.

Begins publishing ephemeral street pamphlets and translating the work of Andrei Voznesensky, Alexander Kohav, Robert Rodzhdestvensky, and Natasha Belyaeva from the Russian, 1975.

Cover of Hirschman and Alexander Altmann’s translation of Three Tracts by Eleazer of Worms (Berkeley: Tree, 1975).

In 1975, the journal Stump, in Athens, Ohio, devotes an entire issue to Hirschman’s poetry and translations.

Golden Mountain Press publishes Hirschman’s The Cool Boyetz Cycle/And (San Francisco: Golden Mountain Press, 1975).

Beatitude publishes Hirschman’s Kashtaninyah Segodnya (San Francisco: Beatitude Press, 1975).

Cover of Hirschman’s Kashtaninyah Segodnya (San Francisco: Beatitude Press, 1975).

Lives with artist Kristen Wetterhahn, 1975-1983.

City Lights Books publishes Hirschman’s Lyripol (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1976). By this time, Hirschman is in a circle of poets in North Beach that includes Gene Ruggles, Neeli Cherkovski, Janice Blue, Gregory Corso, Kaye McDonough, David Moe, Tom Dawson, Harold Norse, Ken Wainio, Kirby Doyle, Tisa Walden, Bob Kaufman, Jack Micheline, Alexander Kohav, Kristen Wetterhahn, Wayne Miller, A.D. Winans, Kush, Paul Landry, and Jack Mueller, among others.

Cover of Hirschman’s Lyripol (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1976).

Between 1976 and 1989 Hirschman disseminates roughly 125,000 handmade works of cultural propaganda, in the tradition of agit-prop activism. Hirschman calls these “talking leaves” in the American Indian Sequoia tradition. They are written in Russian and English, and are primarily political in nature, written in support of the workers’ movement.

Allen Ginsberg, Harold Norse, Jack Hirschman, Michael McClure, and Bob Kaufman at the Cafe Trieste in North Beach, San Francisco, 1975. Photo by Diana Church.

In 1979 Hirschman makes contact with the Marvin and Ruth Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry in Miami Beach, Florida. The Sackners begin buying Hirschman’s verbal/visual work of the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s the Sackners often pay Hirschman’s rent at the Tevere (now Columbus) Hotel in North Beach in exchange for unique books made by Hirschman.


 Cover Frammis (an homage to Wallace Berman), which Hirschman edited with Jack Mueller (Berkeley: Artaud’s Elbow, 1979).

Travels to Sicily and Greece, where he works with poets and painters, 1980.

Joins the Communist Labor Party, 1980. He works, among other activities, as a cultural activist with poets Luis Rodriguez, Michael Warr, Kimiko Hahn, Sarah Menefee, Bruno Gulli, Carol Tarlen, David Josef, among others.

Hirschman disseminating the People’s Tribune during a demonstration against the American occupation of Iraq, March 18, 2007.

In 1981 the film Kino Da! directed by experimental filmmaker Henry Hills is released.  It is a short two minute long film, shot on 16mm, of Hirschman giving a rendition of a poem in the manner of the Russian Futurist.

Three still photographs from the film Kino Da! (1981 by Henry Hills).

Begins publishing longer poems under the title of Arcanes. Many begin to appear in the journal Left Curve, edited by Csaba Polony, in the early 1980s. Hirschman describes the Arcanes as the dialectical materialist transformation of (often) alchemical or mystical materials. They strive to bring the spiritual meaning of dialectical thought and feeling forward in a personal/political sense.

Saxophonists Art Pepper and Dexter Gordon with Hirschman at the Keystone Korner, San Francisco, 1981. Photo by Brian McMillen.

Member of the Union of Left Writers collective, which edits and publishes Compages: International Translations, 1982-1989. The journal publishes revolutionary poems from as many as 45 languages, translates American poets into other languages, and sends copies to activist groups and writers’ unions in 50 different countries. Members of the collective change through the years. The most consistent are R. V. Cottam, Carol Tarlen, and David Joseph.

Death of Hirschman’s son David from leukemia, 1982.

Lives and works with poet Sarah Menefee, 1983-1998.

Painting by Hirschman (1986) in the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Hirschman organizes and participates in political activities surrounding issues of homelessness, immigration, and police brutality.

In 1984, he founds the Jacques Roumain Cultural Brigade with Haitian poet Boadiba. The Brigade is a Haitian support group named after the poet and founder of the Haitian Communist Party. Among the members of the Cultural Brigade are Rosemary Manno and Paul Laraque. Hirschman begins a relationship with Haitian poet Paul Laraque, who lives in New York City, whose works Hirschman translates from French and Creole.

Member of the Roque Dalton Cultural Brigade, which translates poetry from Central America, 1983-1989. Among Brigade members are Alejandro Murguia, Francisco Alarcon, David Volpendesta, Barbara Paschke, Magaly Fernandez, and Juan Felipe Herrera. Hirschman translates from the Spanish, as part of the Brigade’s work, Roque Dalton’s Poemas Clandestinos/Clandestine Poems (San Francisco: Solidarity Educational Publications, 1984).

After the death of Bob Kaufman in 1986, Hirschman edits a collection of more than 50 tributes entitled Would You Wear My Eyes? A Tribute to Bob Kaufman (San Francisco: Bob Kaufman Collective, 1989).

Cover of Would You Wear My Eyes?, which Hirschman edited (San Francisco: Bob Kaufman Collective, 1989).

He is arrested numerous times in San Francisco while demonstrating and occupying vacant buildings in the early 1990s, as part of activities of the Communist Labor Party, in support of the fight against homelessness.

The Communist Labor Party dissolves voluntarily in 1992. After a period of transition, Hirschman becomes a member of the League of Revolutionaries for a New America in 1994 and contributes to their newspaper, The People’s Tribune.

Cover of Hirschman’s The Bottom Line (Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1988.

Curbstone Press publishes two books by Hirschman: The Bottom Line (Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1988) and Endless Threshold (Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1992).

Cover of Hirschman’s The Back of a Spoon (San Francisco: Manic D Press, 1992.

Azul Editions publishes Hirschman’s The Xibalba Arcane (Washington, D.C.: Azul Editions, 1994). Begins publishing under the imprint Deliriodendron Press in 1994. That same year, Hirschman begins giving reading tours in Italy and England, where he also conducts writing workshops at local schools and universities.

Sergio Iagulli and Raffaella Marzano begin publishing Hirschman’s work in Italian, including: a translation of Endless Threshold, which is published under the title Soglia Infinita (Salerno: Multimedia Edizioni, 1994); L’Arcano di Pasolini (Salerno: Multimedia Edizioni, 1996); L’Arcano di Shupsl (Salerno: Multimedia Edizioni, 1996); and L’Arcano Xibalba (Salerno: Multimedia Edizioni, 1997). A variety of Italian translators work on these books including: Bruno Gulli, Raffaella Marzano, Franca Inzahi, Anna Lombardo, Mariella Setzu, and Antonio Bertoli.

In 1997, he is detained while entering England, then released. He travels briefly to Italy and returns to England, where he is again detained and subsequently deported. The official reason given is that Hirschman does not possess a work permit to give a poetry reading.

During a six-week tour of Italy and France in early 1999, Hirschman gives 28 readings promoting the publication of two books: J’ai su que j’avais un frère (Pantin, France: Le Temps des Cerises, 1999) and Arcani (Salerno: Multimedia Edizioni, 1999).

Cover of Hirschman’s J’ai su que j’avais un frère, translated by Gilles Vachon (Pantin, France: Le Temps des Cerises, 1999).

In 1999, Hirschman’s Deliriodendron Press publishes, in bilingual form, the first edition in the American language of Martin Heidegger’s poems for the French poet Rene Char, Imaginings (San Francisco: Deliriodendron Press, 1999). The poems are translated from the German.

On June 5, 1999, Hirschman marries Anglo-Swedish poet-artist Agneta Falk in San Francisco’s Mission District. David Meltzer performs the marriage ceremony.

Jack Hirschman & Agneta Falk, 2010. Photography by David Tinius Rossi.

San Francisco Chronicle publishes lengthy profile on Hirschman by Mike Weiss entitled “Dean of S.F.’s Marxist Poetry, Jack Hirschman Is Lauded Abroad, Unkown at Home,” March 20, 2000.

Hirschman and Falk begin living half the year in Yorkshire, England. They spend much of that time giving readings throughout Europe.

Jack Hirschman and Massimo Baraldi in Montichiari, Italy, 2008. Photograph by Silvana.

In 2002, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passes a Resolution commending Hirschman for his many accomplishments, specifically noting his work as a poet and translator. The commendation also acknowledges Hirschman’s activity as a political and social activist through his work with the Jacques Roumain Cultural Brigade, Roque Dalton Cultural Brigade, and League of Revolutionaries for a New America. Green Party City Supervisor Matt Gonzalez sponsors the Resolution.

Jim Dorenkott, Matt Gonzalez & Jack Hirschman, 2003.

The Before Columbus Foundation presents Hirschman with an American Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2002. The citation, written by David Meltzer, reads in part: “Jack Hirschman is an immensely present yet hidden figure in the cultural politics and life of American poetry. Amazing prolific – on the highest levels of committed artistic and activist involvement – his work is generous, open, and penetratingly critical. His critique is not just sung or hectored in the easy one-d too much political poetry is neutered by; it is of immense depth and profundity. His magnum opus – The Arcanes – is on the same footing as modernist epics like Pound’s The Cantos, William Carlos Williams’s Paterson, Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems, H.D.’s Trilogy, and Thomas McGrath’s Letters To An Imaginary Friend. – We are honored to give recognition to his work and life, as he honors and challenges our work and lives.”

City Lights Books publishes Front Lines (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2002) in its Pocket Poets Series, #55. An over 200-page selection of poetry spanning Hirschman’s 50 years of writing.

Cover of Hirschman’s Front Lines (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2002).

Between 2002-2006 Hirschman travels widely reading in England, France, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzogovina, and Canada. During these sojourns he makes many translations of poets from Italy, Germany and Sweden.  Increasingly he comes to regard translation, not simply as a literary act, but as a means to deepen human friendship and to bridge cultural differences.

Cover of Hirschman’s Arcanes translated by Gilles Vachon (Pantin, France: Le Temps des Cerises, 2005). Cover illustration by Agneta Falk.

Mayor Gavin Newsom names Hirschman San Francisco Poet Laureate on January 11, 2006, for a term of 18 months. He succeeds Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Janice Mirikitani and devorah major, in the post. He delivers a public address at the San Francisco Public Library auditorium on April 4, 2006.

Jack Hirschman reading while  San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Board of Supervisor’s President Aaron Peskin, SF Librarian Luis Herrera, and former SF Poet Laureate Lawrence Ferlinghetti look on, January 13, 2006. Photograph by Luke Thomas.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti & Jack Hirschman at San Francisco’s City Hall for the announcement of Hirschman as poet laureate, 2006. Photograph by Luke Thomas.

Jack Hirschman died in San Francisco, California, on August 22, 2021. He was 87 years old.

Revised: 8/22/21

Additional photos:


A collage by Jack Hirschman “She Donmeh Rung” [For Wallace Berman], included in the publication Frammis, which Hirschman co-edited with Jack Mueller, and which was a tribute to Wallace Berman.


Poster advertising Hirschman’s reading tour of Sardinia.


Cover of “Communist” by Albanian poet Agim Gjakova (San Francisco: Fishy Afoot Press, 1984) translated by Hirschman.
One of the special box sets published by Clifford Burke’s Cranium Press in San Francisco
of the quartos published May 1969-July 1971 by various authors including Hirschman (& Duncan, Whalen, Meltzer, Brandi, Corman, Enslin, among others).
Jack Hirschman broadside
Jack Hirschman broadside.
The Tijuana Bible Arcane published by Deliriodendron Press.

Stump 2: Jack Hirschman Issue (Athens, OH: STUMP, 1975).

Allen Cohen, publisher of the San Francisco Oracle, & Jack Hirschman at Spec’s Bar in San Francisco, 1983. Photographer unknown.


  1. Mark Weiss

    My Dartmouth classmate the Baltimore based sculptor David Hess, and our spouses, happened to get seated recently next to Lawrence Ferlinghetti at a little gem of a luncheonette in Dogpatch. When I asked LF if he’d ever lectured at Dartmouth he responded that he visited Hirschman there. By the way, JH’s students in Hanover also included Sylvester Pollet, who became a poet and taught literature at U. of Maine. There seems to be a cluster of Dartmouth ’61s in the arts and letters: I bet it’s no coincidence.

  2. “In 1997, he is detained while entering England, then released. He travels briefly to Italy and returns to England, where he is again detained and subsequently deported. The official reason given is that Hirschman does not possess a work permit to give a poetry reading.” Okay they did the same thing to me twice in 1980, when subsequently I had first arrived and left Britain with a six month visa. The and to object at that time since Immigration was privatized under Thatcher I was required to leave the country first in order to formally file a protest (or a political asylum request).

  3. This is a good summary of Jack Hirschman’s story. Jack was a huge influence on many of us at UCLA and he has remained a friend through all these years. He wrote a Notation for my book Inzorbital, which was a 60s surge of poetry and a chronicling of the epoch. I still see Jack when I get to SF, and heard him read a couple years back at a Marin Poetry Festival in Sausalito. Enjoyed spending time with Aggi Falk as well; I am glad to be able to say that Jack is still going strong.

  4. Pingback: “Poeming” for Obama, Revisiting “Friendly Fascism,” My Dear Adrienne, And Answering Ms.Tea « The Armageddon of Funk

  5. Pingback: Notes From Underground: Jack Hirschman | Abandon All Despair Ye Who Enter Here

  6. Jack Mellender

    Wonderful poet, exemplar of populist integrity, multilingual impresario. “The Arcanes” are incredible and should last forever.

  7. Jane

    Just wondering how Hirschman would have been a year apart from James Baldwin in school, considering the fact that Baldwin in 9 years older

  8. fmsbw

    Yes Jane, you must be correct. Good Catch! I will reach out to Jack and confirm the error. Thank you.

  9. Pingback: Dramatis personae featuring minor characters | Plastic Alto with Mark Weiss

  10. David Gish

    JH lit a fire of imagination for me taking an American Lit. class at UCLA in 1960s something.
    david gish, non-graduate.

  11. Ernie Joselovitz

    I attended UCLA as an English major from 1960 to 1965, during which time I took several of those 1-unit classes he taught, really a weekly wild lecture on anything he felt like. He was the best teacher I ever had.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: