Honoring Dr. Eugene Hirsch

Dr. Eugene Hirsch, Gene, to all who know him, recently extended to me the privilege of editing his poetry, an assignment I accepted with pleasure.

This collection, Speak, Speak, is the culmination of Gene’s long career of writing, and reflects the complexity of his mind and experience. As a physician/writer he joins a distinguished list, and in my opinion as a reader/editor, he earns his place among the others, notably Maugham, Chekhov, William Carlos Williams.

As for the writing itself, there are several major threads, the first being a poetry that reflects a clear connection with music. As a young child, Gene was considered a musical prodigy. He played and composed for the piano under the tuteledge of Stefan Wolpe. His word for the confluence of music and words in his work is inflection. This is not only a matter of similarities, he says. Rather, the music connects with the poetry to produce very specific emotional resonances.

Imagination also plays a significant role in his poetry, as does his interest in mysticism and mythology. In “Maria Sabina,” the poem that won the 2019 Westoreland Literary Award, he writes of the woman’s death:

When Maria Sabina died,
someone twisted the neck
of a rooster and laid it by her side. On the fourth
day, not the third or the fifth,
its spirit rose up and crowed,
calling her soul to depart,
to start its journey
to the Dead Land,
feeding on squash seeds,
greens and fruit along the way.

Another influence has been his broad education both in medicine and the arts. As a physician there has been the constant preoccupation with life itself, especially the matters of meaning and mortality. The most basic questions are dealt with; the answers are offered with humility. The interpretations of other artists are considered and interpreted as well. As a result of Gene’s interest in their work we have answers to big questions from the likes of Byron, Beethoven, Bach, Fellini, Dali, Goya, Handel, Red Grooms and others.

Finally, Speak, Speak is a collection of two hundred and eighty two poems that reflects a long life remarkably well-lived. This is a book filled with people, places and world events, interpreted by a keen and curious observer.

Thank you, Gene!

As of this posting, Gene is still alive but now in hospice care. It has been a wonderful experience for me to see his remarkable work published as an entire collection, and to know that he has lived to see it happen.

Read three poems from Speak, Speak by Eugene Hirsch.

Gene’s book is available from Amazon at:

Or from the publisher, Cyberwit:

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