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Robert Hershon reads from Goldfish and Rose

I heard in September that Robert Hershon and Joan Larkin were going to be reading at Haverford College in November and I immediately knew that I would come down and see them read together. It’s easy enough to get to Philadelphia. I live close to Chinatown in NYC and can walk to the Philly bus in less than half an hour. Although I know all sorts of folks are wary of the Chinatown buses—You’re going to crash!—they are far cheaper than Amtrak, and faster than New Jersey Transit which takes three hours to the bus’s two. What’s nice about the Chinatown bus as well is that it drops its passengers off close to the Reading Terminal where I always enjoy a bowl of turtle soup with a little bit of sherry and oyster crackers. Jefferson Station is a block away too, and the Septa train to Haverford takes only twenty minutes so all in all to get from New York to Haverford is very little effort, and Haverford itself, like nearby Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr, had a beautiful autumn campus that made the brisk walk to the reading worthwhile.

Robert Hershon read from his new book, Goldfish and Rose, as well as some new unpublished work. With the practice of years, he has honed his poems to be direct, succinct and entertaining, accessible with the sound of an easy prose that comes perhaps from all the years he worked as a journalist, his own humor tempered by what’s real. When I saw the title Goldfish and Rose, the poem I thought I was going to read was not the poem I read. You never know what to expect. For the fun of it, I have typed out the title poem with the poems in front and back of it, almost a random selection in the hopes of giving anyone an idea of Hershon’s work if he or she wants to know.


An old man sits cross-legged on
the Boulevard Saint Germaine and displays
his art on a white cloth: roses carved from
beets and goldfish carved from carrots.
People stop to admire them, but he
does not speak. He holds his beet
and a knife.

Two nights later, he is showing the same
roses and the same goldfish and the beet
he is holding is still entirely a beet.
What is his game then? Does he suffer
from sculptor’s block? Does he maintain
a museum rather than a gallery? Does he
despise commerce?

Maybe he knows he’s carved one
perfect rose and one perfect goldfish and
he is waiting for all Paris to celebrate that.
Why are they taking so long?
Must his art rot and must he die?
Well, that is the tradition.


on skinny old
lexington avenue
i speed up
to pass this man

so i can slow down

i take
great pleasure
in the exact size
of my steps


no offense sidney says
but who the hell needs poems
look what can a poet tell me
about a sunset for instance
that i can’t see for myself

sidney every sunset i see now
i see your big red worried face

Robert Hershon

Robert Hershon has been publishing poets for the last fifty years; if you want to know more about the books from Hanging Loose Press, you can check them out here:


Joan Larkin, Robert Hershon, Donna Brook & Thomas Devaney @ Haverford College

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