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The New York Times has a touching obituary of the New York poet Robert Hershon, who died this week at 84. Across a 50-odd-year career, Hershon and his collaborators at the “self-editing” Hanging Loose Press—it started life as a binder of looseleaf poems you were free to keep or discard as you liked—published work by the writers Denise Levertov, Maggie Nelson, Cathy Park Hong, and Ha Jin, among countless others.

In a 2002 profile, a Brooklyn Rail interviewer recalled meeting Hershon and leaving with a pile of literature:

“One of the reasons the press has lasted so long is that we get a kick out of it,” Hershon says, choosing an armful of books to give me before I leave. “And one of the pleasures of a press is to be able to give books away.”…Then, glancing through the pile, he adds a book of his own. “There’s my old head,” he quips of a younger-looking jacket photograph, “I don’t know how I lost it.”

Hanging Loose’s first office, before it was a true press, was the legendary McSorley’s bar on Manhattan’s East Seventh Street; Hershon and his collaborators soon landed in Brooklyn digs, before small Brooklyn presses were a thing, and eventually bounced back to the island—powered throughout by Hershon’s tireless enthusiasm, love of new writers, and subversive wit. The Times obit reprints his “F Stop,” a subway poem from 1985:

Don’t push.
There is another F
train right behind us.

There’s another F
that’s faster and finer
than this F is.
It serves French fries
and frog legs.
All the seats face
front and are covered
with monkey fur. A flutist plays
melodies in F. It’s an
infinitely superior F train.
It’s right behind us.
Why don’t you wait?

Ah, because we know the
faces of those for whom
the trains have never come.
And we fear that what finally
roars from that sour tunnel
is fury itself.
There is another F train
right behind us.
Let some other fool wait.

And they start the push
toward home.

Poetry is more interesting than reporters talking about it, so go read the obituary and then read his work.

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FACT:

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

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