Picture of Herschel Silverman:
Poet Herschel Silverman
To Appear at Squawk Coffeehouse
By Susie Davidson
CAMBRIDGE - Tonight, jazz poet Herschel Silverman will make a rare New England appearance at Squawk Coffehouse, in the Harvard-Epworth Methodist Church at 1555 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, at 9 p.m. Silverman, 75, or "Hersch" as he is popularly known, is well known as a poet, performer, poetry editor, candy shop proprietor, and all-around mensch, renowned for his egg creams as well as his support for emerging poetic talent. Hundreds of his poems have appeared in literary journals including Long Shot, Alpha Beat, the Journal of New Jersey Poets’ 20th Anniversary Issue and the Kerouac Connection, and he was the editor of the BEEHIVE Magazine of Contemporary Poetry. His 20 collections of poetry include collections at the Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin and the Library of the University of Chicago; his work has been translated into German and Japanese. His latest book, “Lift Off,” was jointly published by Waterow Books and Long Shot Productions. Silverman also received a New Jersey State Council on the Arts grant to compile a book of the letters he and the late poet Allen Ginsberg exchanged.
His long association with the writers known as the Beat Generation began in the 1950s. “I found readings down in the Lower East Side,” he recalls, “and realized that writing, specifically poetry, could be different from the old masters, and the academically-celebrated present-day masters. Ginsberg’s breakthrough ‘Howl’, some of the surreal stuff, like the ‘Magic Psalms’, I though they were the highest things, the closest a person could express themselves to get to G-d. Then came ‘Kaddish’, a knock-out poem. Even people who weren’t into poetry or into Allen, when they heard or read it they were floored.”
In 1957 Silverman, who had heard reports of poets with knapsacks roaming the land, wrote to Ginsberg, expressing his longing to join in were it not for the wife and two children he needed to support. Ginsberg teased Silverman for his "Beatnick Schmaltz," but said he admired his "soulful perception of life."
Silverman was also corresponding with a young Israeli friend whom he had found in Jerusalem Post ads for pen pals, who showed London publisher Anselm Hollo a story Silverman had written based on an original Israeli story. Hollo got it into the German magazine Rhinozerus along with work by Gunter Grass, William Burroughs, Lawrence Durrell, Jean Cocteau, Robert Creeley and others.
From 1952 to 1986, not all who frequented Herschel’s Beehive Candy Store in Bayonne, New Jersey, knew that “the candystore emperor of Bayonne who dreams of telling the truth,” as he was referred to in Ginsberg’s poem "Television Was a Baby Crawling Toward That Death Chamber," wrote hundreds of jazz poems at night. He would sponsor teams at the high school across the street and post their schedules and scores. He also taught students about the jazz music which was always on the store radio.
Following the death of his wife Laura in 1988, Silverman devoted himself to writing, proofing, traveling for readings, editing literary journals and mentoring. His original hobby, he says, "has now become a full time activity with enough breaks to enjoy and give support to my children and grandchildren."
In Ginsberg’s “Homage to Hersch,” he wrote: "his sincerity and the pleasure his life's taken in the poetry world encourage us all to realize that poetry does serve humankind well in giving pleasure and empowerment to people of sensitive spirit, domestic folk."
An open mic for poets, musicians and other performers will precede Silverman's set tonight at Squawk. Call 617-789-4107 for info.
what is it America seeks
2 blocks away in St. John's Divine Cathedral
Bob Rosenthal Ed Sanders Natalie Merchant
mega mega mega Anne Waldman & Philip Glass
celebrate Allen Ginsberg
Patti Smith prostrate with clarinet
screeching howling for Allen Ginsberg
and chants and rocks and jives
and drives and sings crying wanting to dance
and nearly 3,000 souls rise to rock the place
release personal spiritual energy into the all
into Cathedral belly, and hi-charged Andy Clausen bardic singing
and sweet-singing Steven Taylor on Allen's red harmonium
singing Blake while Eliot Katz shares great social concern
and the Fugs the Fugs the Fugs
Ed Sanders Tuli Kupferberg Steven Taylor
Scott Petito Coby Batty just Fugging around
and a voice heard at beginning
said Seinfeld was about Nothing, Ginsberg about Everything
O hard krishna hare Rama Rama Rama Krishna krishna
in which place were you this nite