“Jack Hirschman Birthday Poem” by Diane di Prima

Aug 23, 2021

(photo: “Jack Hirschman 2008” by Dennis Letbetter)

We are saddened by the loss of our friend, the poet Jack Hirschman. He passed away on August, 22, 2021 at the age of 87. To remember him, we’re sharing this incredible poem by Diane di Prima with a lovely story behind it.

We held an 80th birthday party for Jack at the bookstore back in 2013. Diane was sitting in the audience waiting for her turn to speak. As she sat in the crowd, she began to write in her notebook as the event unfolded. Then, when it was her turn, she got up and read this.

RIP Jack, we love you.


City Lights Bookstore, 2013                         

Jack Hirschman in Venice, California in 1962
behind canals one or two
and crumbling facades

Jack’s cottage tucked in
behind oil pumps on the beach
Jack in a cottage, tucked in, looking out the window

Jack Hirschman at UCLA reading papers from students,
Jack Hirschman holding forth against the Vietnam War
Jack Hirschman pontificating, radicalizing said students
Jack Hirschman and the students walking out of UCLA to go to a demonstration
Jack Hirschman walking out of UCLA without a job

Jack Hirschman in San Francisco scribbling everywhere,
handing out pastels at poetry readings, everyone’s poetry readings
Jack Hirschman putting pastel drawings on all the tables at the Keystone Corner

Jack every day at Vesuvio’s holding forth
Jack getting shaggy and skinny, very skinny
Jack Hirschman getting too skinny

Jack Hirschman in La Trieste seeking Bob Kaufman
Jack Hirschman at La Trieste seeking Lenin
Jack Hirschman a the Trieste seeking God

Jack Hirschman reading his poems out loud to everyone,
Jack reading everyone’s poems out loud to anyone

Jack Hirschman teaching everyone how to write his poems
Jack Hirschman teaching everyone how to write their poems
Jack Hirschman teaching everyone everything they should know

Jack Hirschman in the Trieste reading The Zohar
Jack Hirschman & David Meltzer translating Kabbalah for David Meltzer’s Tree magazine

Jack & David translating Kabbalah together for Tree Books
Jack Hirschman’s Book of Enoch, Jack Hirschman & Eleazar of Worms
Jack & David translating bunches and BUNCHES  of Kabbalah all over town
Jack Hirschman the polymath denouncing erudition

Jack becoming a Marxist, turning his back on Kabbalah
Jack becoming a Stalinist, turning his back on Marxism
Jack turning his back on Stalin, and madder than ever
Jack turning his back, turning into a human pretzel!

Jack Hirschman delighting in everything he ever turned his back on
Jack Hirschman up for days, delighting in everything

Jack Hirschman tired, insisting he’s never tired
Jack Hirschman playful and charming
Jack Hirschman a Pied Piper leading the Revolution

Jack & Aggie fierce & delighted, in Vesuvio’s
Jack & Aggie hanging tough together at Spec’s
Jack & Aggie playful & stormy together at home

Jack leaving many messages to call him
Jack insisting I call him right away, then turning his phone off
Jack Hirschman never answering his cell phone
Jack telling me to text him, my phone doesn’t text
Jack demanding I text him—I don’t know how

Jack sure I’ll feel better, if I just drink some vodka
Jack telling me give up dentists, and “grow a moustache, it’s cheaper”

Jack Hirschman at 80, looking 12
Jack looking wise, either 12, or a very wise infant

Jack passionate & careful
Jack tender & cruel

Jack Hirschman making the world a better place
whether it likes it or not

—Diane di Prima
City Lights Bookstore


Skip to content