Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2021

September 2021

Dear Literary Folk,

Remembering Jack Hirschman

Jack HirschmanBrilliant poet, scholar, translator, and advocate for the rights of the dispossessed, former San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman passed away on Sunday, August 22, at the age of 87.

Hirschman was born in New York City and grew up in the Bronx. He worked as a copyeditor with the Associated Press in New York as a young man, and earned degrees from City College of New York and Indiana University, where he studied comparative literature. He taught at UCLA in the 1970s, before he was fired for his antiwar activities and for encouraging his students to resist the draft. Hirschman remained in California, “making an artistic and political home in the North Beach district of San Francisco”

I did not know Jack personally, but his presence in the San Francisco Bay Area poetry scene was wide and deep and profound. Opal Palmer Adisa wrote this personal reflection and brief tribute to Jack:

Farewell My Friend, Jack Hirschman

(December 13, 1933 – August 22, 2021)
“Jack Hirschman was a friend, a poet and a social activist who lived inclusion and diversity in and throughout his work. I met him when I first moved to San Francisco, and he saw me at an open mic and invited me to one he was hosting in North Beach, where he featured me. Thereafter he featured me on numerous occasions, and always invited me to participate in any anthology in which he was engaged, even as recently as last year. Jack was funny in a not-so-obvious way; he was committed to change and transformation. He believed in poets as change-makers; he advocated for us; he created spaces for us to share our work, to have meaningful dialogue, to write and share our truths. Long Live Jack Hirschman…You will be missed, but your spirit will travel the globe, continuing to make space so the word is heard loudly…ASÉ”

This poem, reprinted from Front Line and featured on the Academy of American Poets website, will give you a taste of Hirschman’s poetry. You can read more at And if you scroll down to the end of the post, you’ll find one of Hirschman’s translations for the September poem.


The Happiness
by Jack Hirschman

There’s a happiness, a joy
in one soul, that’s been
buried alive in everyone
and forgotten.

It isn’t your barroom joke
or tender, intimate humor
or affections of friendliness
or big, bright pun.

They’re the surviving survivors
of what happened when happiness
was buried alive, when
it no longer looked out

of today’s eyes, and doesn’t
even manifest when one
of us dies, we just walk away
from everything, alone

with what’s left of us,
going on being human beings
without being human,
without that happiness.


Crime Mysteries Author at Copperfield’s

Ann CleevesThose of you who are fans of Vera and Shetland are in luck! You have a chance to hear the creator of both these popular British Crime Mysteries on Thursday, September 9, 11:00 a.m. Copperfield’s Books presents New York Times bestseller Ann Cleeves in conversation with Barbara Lane.

I admit when I first read this announcement, I envisioned Ann of Cleves, the fourth wife of Henry VIII (for about 6 months), reinvented as a contemporary British crime detective. And why not? Jane Austen and Elizabeth Bennet have come back to solve murders and fight zombies. Sherlock Holmes boggles his contemporary fans not far from the Millennial Bridge and the London Eye. But I jumped to entirely the wrong conclusion.

I have seen many episodes of Vera, and am now getting better at keeping up with the quick twists of plotline (using English subtitles helps), but I had never noticed the name of the author of the books behind the series. I did catch several zingers that made me laugh, so I should have known there was a keen writer behind a line like this:
“I don’t understand how anyone can write if they don’t use public transport. I earwig all the time.”

Anne Cleeves is the author’s name, and her new book is The Heron’s Cry: A Detective Matthew Venn Novel, the extraordinary follow-up to The Long Call, soon to be a major TV series, alongside her two hit TV shows . The event is online and free, but you do need to register ahead to get the link to tune in. Details and registration:

Where Literature Meets Science
Occidental Center for the Arts presents a conversation with novelist Susan M. Gaines and Sonoma County Poet Laureate emerita Maya Khosla. The conversation will take place on Sunday, September 12, 4:00-5:00 p,m, and will be moderated by Ray Holley.

Former Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla is also a field-based biologist whose concerns for the natural world have led her through the wild, to the page, and
to the screen. She is currently working to assess the forests and rivers of California. Her book All the Fires of Wind and Light was the winner of the 2020 Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Award.

Maya Khosla and Susan Gaines

Trained in chemistry and oceanography, Susan M.Gaines is the author of the novels Accidentals and Carbon Dreams, and co-author with Geoffrey Eglinton and Jurgen Rullkötter of the science book Echoes of Life: What Fossil Molecules Reveal about Earth History. Her short stories have been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. She is a former fellow of the Hanse Institute for Advanced Study in Germany. In 2018, she was awarded a Suffrage Science Award for women in science and science writers who have inspired others.

You can attend live at the OCA amphitheater and online via OCA’s
YouTube channel. No pre-registration required. Free, outdoor event (Follow COVID-19 safety measures according to county regulations). Refreshments, wine, beer, and signed, personalized books for sale. OCA donations welcome. For more info: 707-874-9392 or OCA is accessible to people with disabilities.

Celebrating Fran!
Poet and teacher extraordinaire Fran Claggett-Holland has for many years been a guiding presence and an inspiration. Fran will read, along with her friends and “family” on Monday, September 13, 2:00-4:00 p.m.

Fran Claggett-HollandFran taught high school English and humanities for many years. Former department chair and mentor teacher at Alameda High School, Fran was twice named Teacher of the Year in her district and county, where she initiated an achievement and portfolio writing assessment program. Her teaching experience includes college appointments in English, biology, and physical education; she has also been the James Lynch Lecturer in English at the University of California, Berkeley. She has given workshops for teachers across the country, evaluated schools in Guam, and taught in the Bay Area Writing Project Panama and the Virgin Islands summer workshops.

In October of 2020, Naomi Shihab Nye, writing for the New York Times Magazine, featured a poem by Fran called “On Taking the Measure of Your Book.” Shihab Nye writes:

“In this deeply appealing poem. . . from her new book The Consciousness of Stone (RiskPress Foundation), reading is experienced as a supple activity, an actual posture as one moves to engage with textual experience. It’s a physical revelation as well as a landscape — not just a passive stare. I could feel the fresh exhilaration of a beach, wind and air inside my own body after reading this, without having been to any beach for a long time. Sometimes when people ask how to read a poem, one might simply say, “Go inside it.”

You can read Fran’s poem at

Most important, you can join in celebrating one of Sonoma County’s finest poets. This event will be held on Zoom at this link:

Last Call for the Upcoming Sonoma County Poetry Anthology
I want to remind you all about the anthology Phyllis Meshulam is creating as one of her Poet Laureate projects. If you have already submitted poems for this, thank you! If not, please consider sending up to three poems touching on one or more of the themes noted below.

* Gratitude
* Honoring our Pain for the World
* Seeing with New Eyes/Talking Back to Foundational Texts

You can submit 1-3 poems, each poem no longer than 65 lines, including title, epigraph (if any), and any acknowledgement of prior publication.

Please send English language poems to Phyllis by midnight on September 1, 2021.
Spanish language poems and poems by teens will be accepted up to midnight on September 15, 2021.
Send poems to this e-mail:

For more information about this project, or to see sample poems and prompts on the themes mentioned above, be sure to check out the archives of the Poet Laureate News on the Sonoma County Literary Update webpage:

Poetry and Translation: A Conversation with William O’Daly and Terry Ehret
On Saturday, September 25, I have the great good fortune to spend an hour and a half sharing poetry and conversation with acclaimed translator William O’Daly. The program is called Poets in Conversation, and runs from 4-5:30 PM Pacific Time.

Phyllis Klein, poet, founder, and host of Poets in Conversation, describes it as a Zoom poetry reading with two authors at a time, featuring poems from the books as well as conversation and connection between the readers and the audience present in the Zoom Room. The conversations are then posted to
Youtube for later viewing.

William O'DalyWilliam O’Daly has translated eight books of poetry of Chilean Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda, and most recently Neruda’s first volume, Book of Twilight, a finalist for the 2018 Northern California Book Award in Translation. O’Daly’s chapbooks of poems include The Whale in the Web, also published by Copper Canyon, as well as The Road to Isla Negra; Water Ways, a collaboration with JS Graustein; and Yarrow and Smoke. A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, O’Daly was a finalist for the 2006 Quill Award in Poetry and has been chosen to receive the 2021 English Language Literary Award from the Korean-American journal Miju Poetry and Poetics.

I first discovered Bill O’Daly’s fine renderings of Neruda’s poetry back in the early 90’s. Our literary paths crossed again when, in appreciation for his work, I sent him a copy of Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One, a bilingual translation of poems by Ulalume González de Leόn. Bill wrote back and graciously agreed to write a blurb for Plagios/Plagiarisms,Volume Two, which is currently in book production and due out in April 2022.

Check out Poets in Conversation at this link: To let Phyllis know you’re interested in attending, contact her at

Poem for September
I chose this poem by Roque Dalton in gratitude for the many conversations I had with my student at Santa Rosa Junior College, Bryan Chavez Castro. He introduced me to the poetry of Roque Dalton, and the bravery of his life and work. Born in 1935 in El Salvador, Roque Dalton was the author of several influential poetry collections, including Taberna y otros lugares. He spent much of his life in exile in Mexico and Cuba and died in 1975.

Like You
Roque Daltonby Roque Dalton, 1935-1975
Translated by Jack Hirschman

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-blue
landscape of January days.
And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.
I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.
And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.


Como Tú

Yo, como tú,
amo el amor, la vida, el dulce encanto
de las cosas, el paisaje
celeste de los días de enero.
También mi sangre bulle
y río por los ojos
que han conocido el brote de las lágrimas.
Creo que el mundo es bello,
que la poesía es como el pan, de todos.
Y que mis venas no terminan en mí
sino en la sangre unánime
de los que luchan por la vida,
el amor,
las cosas,
el paisaje y el pan,
la poesía de todos.

(Curbstone Press, 2000), edited by Martín Espada.

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor


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