Joffre Stewart, the Chicago poet, anarchist, and pacifist known for his early participation in the early Beat movement, has died. Joffre was a constant presence in the Chicago poetry scene during the time that I was active in it, in the late 80s and early 90s.
The only obituary I can find is this one on Anarchist News. I’ve seen online that there will be a wake tomorrow, Tuesday, March 19th, from 6-7 PM at Taylor Funeral Home on 79th Street, 63 East 79th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60619.
He was a stunning figure to me– a personable elder statesman with unceasing stamina. His vocabulary and diction put lesser orators to shame. He was friendly and kind and never stopped.
On stage, he was virulent and cutting. He was an avowed anarchist, tax evader, and anti-Zionist. The only mainstream news item I know about Joffre was by Ben Joravsky in the Reader, where Joffre denies being anti-Semitic. If you read his work, it is hard to agree with that assertion. There are constant, deeply hurtful, and inaccurate anti-Semitic utterances all over it.
The super-aggressive and hateful language in Joffre’s work made it very difficult to evaluate him as an artist. For 25 years, I’ve had about 750 pages of leaflets, poems, and collages. In 1994 I sent three self-addressed stamped envelopes to Joffre at his place on S. Calumet, and asked him to send me whatever he could. I always saved the items he gave me in person, but I have been an avowed documenter from the jump, and I recognized his work as something worth saving.
A few years ago I scanned each of these packets, in the exact order in which they were received, as a starting point for doing a more thorough analysis of the work. Here’s what he sent me, in full: