Poems for April 15: Carlos Cortez and Jack Hirschman on Hounds and Fleas

[Carlos Cortez, poet, master printmaker, draft resister during World War II, member of the IWW, mentor to Chicago poets and artists for better than 30 years was also a

Carlos Cortez (from Rebel Graphics site)

founder of the Chicago Labor & Arts Festival.    In 2001 we wrote the following about Carlos in #25 of the Chicago Labor & Arts Notes:

Carlos Cortez was born on August 13, 1923 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  His father was a Mexican Wobbly, and his mother a German socialist-pacifist. Carlos followed in both of their footsteps. He is the author of Where Are The Voices? & Other Wobbly Poems, and Crystal-Gazing the Amber Fluid and Other Wobbly Poems, both published by Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company. He is published in the anthology Emergency Tacos: Seven Poets con Picante (MARCH/Abrazo Press). Carlos joined the IWW in 1947 after being released from two years of federal detention as a conscientious objector. During his many years as a Wobbly, many of his poems have been published in the Industrial Worker. He is also a renowned graphic artist, and his wood cut prints were recently featured at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum. A retrospective catalogue of his work was recently published by the Center.

Carlos Cortez is a mentor to Chicago’s poet’s, a lyric voice of the many social and labor struggles of the 20th century with a vision for the 21st. He has been called the best part of the 20th Century, walking.

Carlos Cortez has put his art to service for The Industrial Worker, United Farm Workers, and many such groups.  He has exhibited in Mexico City (“A Traves de la Frontera”) and Berlin (“Das Andere Amerika”) as well as such showings as “Committed to Print” (Museum of Modern Art, 1988). Since 1994, he is represented in the collections of the National Museum of American Art, Washington D.C. A 20-page catalogue of the 1998 “Bold Images” exhibition (Elmhurst Art Museum) devotes four large pages to his life and art and in what is a tribute to Cortez’s dedication and sincerity. The catalogue notes: “He refuses to limit his editions or number his prints. He has provided that further copies be pulled posthumously in order to hold down the price.” True to his beliefs, and the original spirit of the print, he seeks to disseminate his art, to all and for all, for all time.

Along with his paintings and prints, Cortez is represented by three volumes of art and verse. Readers with further interest should seek out: De Kansas a Califas & Back to Chicago: Poems and Art (Abrazo Press: 1992) and Where Are The Voices?: And Other Wobbly Poems (Charles H. Kerr: 1977), both by Chicago publishing houses. His verse is also included in Emergency Tacos:Seven Poets Con Piente (Abrazo Press:1989), for which he did the cover art. Several Cortez prints are included as well in Second Sight: Printmaking in Chicago 1935-1995 (Mary and Leigh Block Gallery, Northwestern University: 1996)

Screen print commemorating the life and struggle of Brazilian Chico Mendes

for more information about Carlos Cortez, and to view more graphics, visit rebel graphics.  — Lew Rosenbaum]

Houn’ Dog by Carlos Cortez

Trotting along the sidewalk
with not a feline in sight
to give chase to
and not a girl doggie in sight
that he can pursue
but just as happy as
only a houn’ dog can be,
he espies the recruiting poster
in front of the post office.
His tail stops wagging
long enough
as he cranes his head forward
to make the sniff test
and upon seeing that it
does not sniff too well,
with excellent body english
and a back paw salute,
he administers upon this artifact
of an alleged higher creation,
his most eloquent appraisal.

from Where are the Voices by Carlos Cortez

______________________________________________________________

A Fleas’s Knees by Jack Hirschman

A flea’s
knees
not a flea’s
feet
is where
a flea jumps from.
I heard it
on the radio
on one
of those
Smithso-
nian Institute
shows
where they
have
fleas on
their knees.
Workers,
watch out
for whom
Hormel tolls.
It tolls for
fleas
on their knees.
Stand tall
all over the land.
Dump those
scabs and
lousy bosses
for liberty.

from The Bottom Line by Jack Hirschman.

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