Poems for April 14: Gwendolyn Brooks and Jack Hirschman remember Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson by Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks

That time

we all heard it,

cool and clear,

cutting across the hot grit of the day.

The major Voice.

The adult Voice

forgoing Rolling River,

forgoing tearful tale of bale and barge

and other symptoms of an old despond.

Warning, in music-words

devout and large,

that we are each other’s


we are each other’s


we are each other’s

magnitude and bond.

[Originally published in Family Pictures (1971), collected in the Freedomways anthology,  Paul Robeson, The Great Forerunner (International Publishers) and in Blacks, the collected poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks (The David Company).  Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1917 and raised in Chicago. She is the author of more than twenty books of poetry, including Children Coming Home (The David Co., 1991); Blacks (1987); To Disembark (1981); The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems (1986); Riot (1969); In the Mecca (1968); The Bean Eaters (1960); Annie Allen (1949), for which she

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson

received the Pulitzer Prize; and A Street in Bronzeville (1945).

She also wrote numerous other books including a novel, Maud Martha (1953), and Report from Part One: An Autobiography (1972), and edited Jump Bad: A New Chicago Anthology (1971).

In 1968 she was named Poet Laureate for the state of Illinois,  . . . read and hear more here .  The Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing (GBC) was founded in 1990 on the historic campus of Chicago State University (CSU). Click here to get to the face book page.


Paul Robeson by Jack Hirschman
He who was stoned. Not drugged. Stoned

All That’s Left: Jack Hirschman

by fascist-thug rocks as he sang
for the People in Peekskill

in a vicious attack that 58 years later
remains the unforgettable
shame of shames of American culture;

whose voice was the ground where
all colors of the rainbow warmed themselves
on the black fire of his affirmations;

who entered our pores, who never separated
a forward pass, a Shakespearean soliloquy
or a workers’ song from the revolutionary

transformation of all the world’s peoples;
who IS the Old Man River flowing
into countless other voices

singing, when I open my mouth, singing
when you open yours, singing the dream
he rendered palpable, and vast, and deep.

from All That’s Left: San Francisco Poet Laureate Series 4 (City Lights).  This volume includes Hirschman’s speech at his inauguration as San Francisco poet laureate as well as poems written during his term as laureate.

Asked why he hasn’t published with larger houses, Hirschman said he has chosen to work with those with whom he is most at home.  “It is possible to live as a poet, and as a painter, and to live totally, creatively. It takes a little courage, maybe a little cruelty in relation to time with others. But it’s worth it. It’s not a question of money at all. The money is shit; it really is. The value is in doing away with a system dominated by money. Your works, writing, your painting, are messages in that direction.”  Read more of the interview on InstantCity here. Jack Hirschman will open the Chicago Labor & Arts Festival May 3 and 4, 2010.

One Response to “Poems for April 14: Gwendolyn Brooks and Jack Hirschman remember Paul Robeson”

  1. Red Carnation: Poetry against Fascism - Says:

    […] Artists have always been the soul of the anti-fascist movement. Here two great American poets, Gwendolyn Brooks and Jack Hirschman, celebrate the great voice of anti-fascism, Paul Robeson. You can be part of a contemporary anti-fascist poetry reading, co-sponsored by the Chicago Revolutionary Poet’s Brigade and the Chicago LRNA Chapter, Saturday, April 24 at 1 PM Central time by registering here: bit.ly/RedCarnationPoetry. https://chilaborarts.wordpress.com/…/poems-for-april…/ […]

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