Nationality: American. Born: New York City, 13 December 1933. Education: Long Island University, New York, 1952; City College of New York, 1951–55, B.A. 1955; Indiana University, Bloomington, M.A. 1957, Ph.D. 1959. Family: Married Ruth Epstein in 1954 (divorced 1974); one son (deceased) and one daughter; lived with Kristen Wetterhahn, 1975–83; lived with Sarah Menefee, 1983–98; married Agneta Falk in 1999. Career: Instructor, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1959–61; assistant professor, University of California, Los Angeles, 1961-66. Lived in Venice, California, 1967–71, and since 1973 in San Francisco. Painter and collage maker: exhibitions in Venice, California, 1972, and Los Angeles, 1972. Editor, Compages: International Translations, 1982–89; editor, Poetry USA, 1996. Associated with Tree magazine, Bolinas, California; associated with League of Revolutionaries for a New America in the 1990s. Address: P.O. Box 26517, San Francisco, California 94126, U.S.A.
Fragments. Privately printed, 1952.
A Correspondence of Americans. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1960.
Two, lithographs by Arnold Belkin. Los Angeles, Zora Gallery, 1963.
Interchange. Los Angeles, Zora Gallery, 1964.
Kline Sky. Privately printed, 1965.
Yod. London, Trigram Press, 1966.
London Seen Directly. London, Goliard Press, 1967.
Wasn't It Like This in the Woodcut. London, Cape Goliard Press, 1967.
William Blake. Topanga, California, Love Press, 1967.
A Word in Your Season, with Asa Benveniste. London, Trigram Press, 1967.
Ltd. Interchangeable in Eternity: Poems of Jackruthdavidcelia Hirschman. Privately printed, 1967.
Jerusalem: A Three Part Poem. Topanga, California, Love Press, 1968.
Aleph, Benoni and Zaddik. Los Angeles, Tenfingers Press, 1968.
Jerusalem, Ltd. London, Trigram Press, 1968.
Shekinah. Mill Valley, California, Maya, 1969.
Broadside Golem. Venice, California, Box Zero, 1969.
Black Alephs: Poems 1960–1968. New York, Phoenix Book Shop, and London, Trigram Press, 1969.
NHR. Goleta, California, Christopher's, 1970.
Scintilla. Bolinas, California, Tree, 1970.
Soledeth. Venice, California, Q Press, 1971.
DT. Santa Barbara, California, Yes Press, 1971.
The Burning of Los Angeles. Venice, California, J'Ose Press, 1971.
HNYC. Topanga, California, Skyline Press, 1971.
Les Vidanges. Venice, California, Beyond Baroque Press, 1972.
The R of the Ari's Raziel. Los Angeles, Press of the Pegacycle Lady, 1972.
Adamnan. Santa Barbara, California, Christopher's, 1972.
K'wai Sing: The Origin of the Dragon. Venice, California, Beyond Baroque Press, 1973.
Cantillations. Santa Barbara, California, Yes/Capra Press, 1973.
Aur Sea. Bolinas, California, Tree, 1974.
Djackson. Salt Lake City, Rainbow Resin Press, 1974.
Cockroach Street. San Francisco, Street, 1975.
The Cool Boyetz Cycle. San Francisco, Golden Mountain Press, 1975.
Kashtaniyah Segodnyah. San Francisco, Beatitude Press, 1976.
Lyripol. San Francisco, City Lights, 1976.
The Arcanes of Le Comte de St. Germain. San Francisco, Amerus Press, 1977.
The Proletarian Arcane. San Francisco, Amerus Press, 1978.
The Jonestown Arcane. San Francisco, Poetry for the People, 1979.
The Cagliostro Arcane. San Francisco, Michael Hargreaves, 1981.
The David Arcane. San Francisco, Amerus Press, 1982.
Class Questions. N.p., Retribution Press, 1982.
Kallatumba. Fremont, California, Ruddy Duck Press, 1984.
The Necessary Is. San Francisco, Fishy Afoot Press, 1984.
The Bottom Line. Willimantic, Connecticut, Curbstone Press, 1988.
Sunsong. San Francisco, Fishy Afoot Press, 1988.
The Tirana Arcane. San Francisco, Deep Forest Press, 1991.
The Jonestown Arcane. San Diego, Parenthesis Writing Series, 1991.
The Satin Arcane. Oakland, Zeitgeist Press, 1991.
Endless Threshold. Willimantic, Connecticut, Curbstone Press, 1992.
The Back of a Spoon. San Francisco, Manic D Press, 1992.
The Heartbeat Arcane. Farmington, New Mexico, Yoo Hoo Press, 1993.
The Xibalba Arcane. Washington D.C., Azul Editions, 1994.
The Arcane on a Stick. San Francisco, Roadkill Press, 1995.
The Grafitti Arcane. San Francisco, Deliriodendron Press, 1996.
The Grit Arcane. West Yorkshire, England, Spout, 1997.
Kallatumba. Osnago, Italy, Edizioni Pulcinoelefante, 1998.
The Open Gate. San Francisco, Express Press, 1998.
Verbo-Visual Works: Verbo-visual art works, Marvin and Ruth Sackner Archive of Verbo-Visual Art, 1967–89.
Editor, Artaud Anthology. San Francisco, City Lights, 1965.
Editor, Amerus Anthology. San Francisco, Amerus Press, 1978.
Editor, with Jack Mueller, Frammis. Berkeley, California, Artaud's Elbow, 1979.
Editor, Would You Wear My Eyes: A Tribute to Bob Kaufman. San Francisco, Bob Kaufman Cultural Brigade, 1989.
Editor, Partisans. San Francisco, Deliriodendron Press, 1995.
Translator, with Victor Erlich, Electric Iron, by Vladimir Mayakovsky. Mill Valley, California, Maya, 1970.
Translator, Love Is a Tree, by Antonin Artaud. Fairfax, California, Red Hill Press, 1972.
Translator, A Rainbow for the Christian West, by René Depestre. Fairfax, California, Red Hill Press, 1972.
Translator, The Exiled Angel, by Luisa Pasamanik. Fairfax, California, Red Hill Press, 1973.
Translator, Igitur, by Stéphane Mallarmé. Los Angeles, Press of the Pegacycle Lady, 1973.
Translator, Wail for the Arab Beggars of the Casbah, by Ait Djafer. Los Angeles, Papa Bach, 1973.
Translator, The Crucifixion, by Jean Cocteau. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Quarter Press, 1975.
Translator, The Book of Noah, by Johann Maier. Berkeley, California, Tree, 1975.
Translator, with Alexander Altmann, Three Tracts, by Eleazer of Worms. San Francisco, Beatitude Press, 1976.
Translator, Orange Voice, by Alexander Kohav. San Francisco, Beatitude Press, 1976.
Translator, Four Angels in Profile, Four Bears in Fullface, by Alexander Kohav. San Francisco, Beatitude Press, 1976.
Translator, Requiem, by Robert Rodzhdestvensky. San Francisco, Beatitude Press, 1977.
Translator, Hunger, by Natasha Belyaeva. Mill Valley, California, D'Aurora Press, 1977.
Translator, Emigroarium, by Alexander Kohav. San Francisco, Amerus Press, 1977.
Translator, Dove Rose, by Eliphas Levi. N.p., Viscerally Press, 1979.
Translator, Vegetations of Splendor, by René Depestre. New York, Vanguard Press, 1980.
Translator, Yossiph Shyryn, by Santo Cali. Trapani, Sicily, Antigruppo, 1981.
Translator, Jabixshak: Poems and Songs of Socialist Albania. San Francisco, Amerus Press, 1982.
Translator, Elegies, by Pablo Neruda. San Francisco, David Books, 1983.
Translator, Poems, by Sarah Kirsch. Santa Cruz, California, Alcatraz Press, 1983.
Translator, Three Clicks Left, by Katerina Gogou. San Francisco, Night Horn, 1983.
Translator, Communist, by Agim Gjakova. San Francisco, Fishy Afoot Press, 1984.
Translator, Clandestine Poems, by Roque Dalton. San Francisco, Solidarity 1984.
Translator, Fistibal/Slingshot, by Paul Laraque. Washington, D.C., Seaworthy Press/Editions Samba, 1989.
Translator, In Memory of the Children Fallen, by Dorou Lefteria. San Francisco, Deliriodendron Press, 1994.
Translator, The Sea on Its Side, by Ambar Past. Sausalito, Post-Apollo Press, 1994.
Translator, Seven Poems, by Rocco Scotellaro. San Francisco, Deliriodendron Press, 1994.
Translator, with Angela Beske, Light-Force, by Paul Celan. San Francisco, Deliriodendron Press, 1995.
Translator, The Plain Inside, by Claudio Galuzzi. San Francisco, Deliriodendron Press, 1997.
Translator, Fist of Sun, by Ferruccio Brugnaro. Willmantic, Connecticut, Curbstone Press, 1998.
Translator, A Fling of Two Die, by Stéphane Mallarmé. San Francisco, Deliriodendron Press, 1998.
Translator, The Month of the Frozen Grapes, by Katerina Gogou. San Francisco, Deliriodendron Press, 1999.
Translator, Suicide Circus, by Alexei Kruchenych. Los Angeles, Green Integer, 1999.*
Manuscript Collections: University of California, Irvine and Riverside.
Jack Hirschman comments:
(1970) Poetry is man at his most complete state of consciousness. As I write this, in March of 1969, I am conscious of whirling bodies of Vietnamese women and children in the long process of death and aware that "poetry does nothing" is truth; I reject that truth for the poem I am now going to plunge into. Long live the creative act! May the overlords of the world learn the real meaning of death.
(1974) Putting my poems, my visual works, and my kabbalistic interests together, my poetry may be seen more and more to reflect—through the amuletic/hieroglyphic tradition—a politically left position which sees Hanoi as the extension of the idea of Blake's Jerusalem. Free to translate from many languages and moreover to broadcast such works, as well as my own, on Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles, I believe my works reveal all that is beautifully decayed in Western capitalistic societies in the hope that the interchange between the West and the future Asia and Africa takes place, so to speak, across the arc of rainbows rather than the broken backs of those who still have not forfeited the earth to machinery.
(1980) For the past six years I've been living and writing in San Francisco, especially in North Beach, as a propagandist for communism as the poetic energy of revolution itself. I've learned how to translate and to write in Russian and have worked with different cadres on the street, i.e., the Beatitude group and then the Amerus group. Poems are written in American and Russian and daily read. Since 1974 I have given away some 50,000 handmade poster-poems in the tradition of Mayakovsky—the genuine poet-painter of the Russian Revolution—and William Blake. Early Jewish kabbalism has given way to the kabbalistic Soviet, rooted in the Cyrillic language. This extension of work represents the foremost affirmation of my creative life and is an ongoing process. The latest development is the Union of Street Poets, which provides handout texts of poems to the people of San Francisco. Long life to the revolutionary poets everywhere.
(1989) For the past nine years I've been working as a cultural worker for the Communist Labor Party of North America. All texts published in the 1980s should therefore be seen in that light. Gone are esotericisms and mystical idealisms. My work is about and in relation to the working class and its struggles here and elsewhere. The highest form of art, to my mind, is an enduring agitation-propaganda.
(1995) For the past five years my works have reflected the shift from ideology to struggles from the poorest segments of society. I have mainly concentrated on my longer poems, which I call "Arcanes," which reflect my revolutionary concerns in a so-to-speak large canvas. At the same time I've continued as an agitprop writer and artist, working as a correspondent for the revolutionary newspaper People's Tribune as well as with cultural groupings in a collective way. Two large collections, The Bottom Line and Endless Threshold, have been translated and published in Italy, and I've twice toured that country—in 1992 and again in 1993.
(1999) For the past four years I've worked with and for the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, which developed out of the dissolution of the Communist Labor Party as a nonparty organization of militant revolutionary educators and propagandists. At the same time, because my last five books have appeared in Italy, Great Britain, and France, I have been in Europe touring a great deal during this period. When I am in San Francisco, I continue reading my works at demonstrations around issues of the new class of poor people (vis-à-vis homelessness, police brutality, and neocapitalist wars).* * *
Jack Hirschman's work as a poet, translator, and radical theorist is wide-ranging, prolific, energetic, and crackling with passionate alertness and utopian zeal. He is one of the left's most prolific and consistent poetic voices, and his work resonates with an insistent reminder of the American and international radical continuum. An amazing polyglot, he has produced translations that range from German, French, Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Russian to less well represented languages like Albanian, Creole, Vietnamese, and Yiddish. The poets he has translated are dizzyingly diverse, from Artaud, Mallarmé, Célan, and Cocteau to René Depestre, Rocque Dalton, Luisa Pasamanik, and Neruda. (During the 1980s Hirschman participated in a translation collective producing Compages, an irregularly issued journal focusing on world literature of resistance and engagement.) In his radical internationalism Hirschman has continued an American tradition most notably practiced by Kenneth Rexroth.
Hirschman's ease with languages allows for a multilingual Joycean weave of wordplay and layered references already evident in his first collection, A Correspondence of Americans, and in full display in Black Alephs: Poems l960-l968, published in London by the Trigram Press (with cover art and interior collages by Wallace Berman). In later publications like The Bottom Line the work still sings its linguistic virtuosity, but it is trimmed down, compressed, more direct, and speech-based. Hirschman's unique relation with languages has, over the decades, moved him away from an academic literary career into a pariah realm as an avowed left-wing poet-activist and agitprop artist and performer. Although he is celebrated abroad, he is marginalized in America. Thus, his works are translated into Italian and French, but, outside of those published by Curbstone Press, they are circulated in the United States mainly through samizdat-like photocopied editions self-published or published by radical friends.
The cultural politics of American modernist poetry has been ill at ease with radical libertarian poetries. The major periods of tolerance—the Great Depression of the l930s, the beat movement of the l950s, and the upsurge in the late l960s—have retreated into embarrassment, erased from the record in academia. Hirschman's unabashedly overt, fully committed communist poetry has been critically neglected by mainstream literary networks, while radicals and former radicals criticize what they read as an idiosyncratic and romanticized version of Marxist-Leninist doctrine in complete disregard of its postrevolutionary history. Hirschman practices an intuitive radicalism, grounded in a long-standing sympathy for outcast heresies, millenarian rhapsodies, and the subversive spirit and its encrypted vocabularies. Despite the occasional use of jargon, his compassionate devotion to the oppressed and broken populace is stirring and often deeply effective.
Hirschman's attempts at imagining and writing so-called proletarian poetry or socialist realism yield mixed results, however. Unable to conceal his rich affiliations with the high culture (and middle-class ground) of modernism, Hirschman cannot honestly numb himself to any party line despite his devotion to an increasingly devalued international communism. These contradictions add an unintentional difficulty to his work, even though, through conscious effort, he has trimmed out literary excess to produce short-lined poems of "everyday" clarity:
You see them
midnight, in Chinatown
sidestreets or in doorways
directly on Kearney
in the shadow of the great
not simply dead drunk,
but as if dead, drunk,
on their back sprawled,
or on their faces, or
so beggarly in their wine,
they sit in doorways
from anything that moves:
a blown piece of newspaper,
the shadow of a pigeon
in the moonlight.
Since the 1970s Hirschman has been issuing fascicles of his ongoing epic The Arcanes through small presses, periodicals, and homemade giveaways. It is his most sustained and important work, marking another entry into the uneasy archives of the modernist American serial poem initiated by Pound, Williams, and H.D. and later practiced by Charles Olson and Thomas McGrath, with whom Hirschman shares certain affinities. (In the postmodern realm Ron Silliman carries on the gesture.)
Worth noting also is Hirschman's generosity not only to political causes but also to the consistent furthering, both as advocate and translator, of works by radical poets and artists in the United States and elsewhere. He is a tireless presence at rallies, demonstrations, and benefits, and he remains one of the most galvanizing readers of poetry performing today.