© 2022 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Celebrated San Francisco Poet Jack Hirschman Has Died

Steve Rhodes
Flickr / Creative Commons
Jack Hirschman introduces Bobby Coleman, co-editor "Occupy SF: Poems from the movement" on December 26, 2012 at Book Bay Fort Mason in San Francisco.

Jack Hirschman made one of his last public appearances at a video event put on by the public library in his beloved San Francisco just over a week ago.

He introduced himself by saying, "Hi. New and old friends, too. And comrades."

Comrades. Though Hirschman’s career as a published poet lasted more than half a century, consisting of more than 100 volumes including dozens of translations in many of the nine languages he spoke, he identified most strongly as a proponent of the Communist movement.

His advocacy for oppressed people resounded to the end. At the library event, he remembered his recently passed friend and fellow San Francisco Poet Laureate Janice Mirikitani, and her earliest days spent in an Arkansas incarceration camp for Japanese Americans during World War II.

He said Mirikitani was "inmated there by the same fascist, white supremacist orders that step on the faces of Black, Browns, and Asians in these pandemic days."

Hirschman published his first volume of poetry in his 20s. He was named San Francisco’s fourth Poet Laureate in 2006. And into his 80s he still curated poetry readings every Tuesday at the North Beach branch of the San Francisco Public Library.

His wife, Agneta Falk, said he’d given a reading at Foreign Cinema Wednesday and came down with a cold, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He passed away on Saturday at the age of 87. Yet words he spoke about his friend, Janice Mirikitani, apply similarly to himself as a legendary person of words:

"How even death’s missing you because you can’t, under any weather, ever, have died."

Ben was hired as Interim Executive Director of KALW in November, 2021.