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Biography

Charles Monroe Fishman was born on July 10th, 1942, in Oceanside, Long Island, the oldest of two children born to Morris (Murray) Fishman, Forman at Superior Printing Ink Company on Lafayette Street in New York City, and Naomi (Toby) Adès, a homemaker. Two years after Fishman was born, the family moved to Wheeler Avenue in the South Bronx, where it was joined by Anita, Murray’s daughter from a previous marriage. Anita, 12 years older than the future poet and 15 years older than Harriet, their younger sister, often acted as a baby sitter and, at times, as a second mother. In 1951, the family moved to Wantagh Long Island, where it resided for many years.

In the middle of his sophomore year at Levittown Memorial High School, Fishman began writing poetry out of sheer boredom and a volatile mix of anger, intellectual and emotional hunger, and an intense need for the comforts of language and beauty. His junior English teacher, Abraham Blinderman, read some of his early work and, in class one day, announced “Charlie is a poet.” Blinderman also sent those early poems to Poetry Magazine and received a personal rejection, which Fishman still has in a file somewhere. As a senior at Memorial, he read Kerouac’s On the Road and realized that he needed to squeeze himself out of the dusty coffin that school had become for him and, after graduating, left a part-time summer job finishing turn-tables for stereophonic record players to hitchhike across the country with his school friend, Harry Iceland. The following year, he hitchhiked the country again, this time solo, and stayed for a month with Anita’s family in Renton, Washington, while he wrote at night and floated, during long summer days, from one exhibit to another at the Seattle World’s Fair.

Fishman met his soulmate, Ellen Marcie Haselkorn, at a fraternity dance at Hofstra University (then Hofstra College), on his return from Renton to Long Island. They were dancing fools and very young and their first marriage, in August 1964, fell apart after a year and a half. By then, they were both teaching, and he decided to hitchhike once more — this time across Europe during his summer break. When he returned to the States before the start of the new school year, he called Ellen and they began seeing each other again. Their second marriage, in June 1967, proved to be another rollercoaster, but it produced two amazing daughters and countless memories that will not be forgotten. September 20, 2012 marked 50 years from the time they met. Every personal, national, and worldwide catastrophe, exaltation, and transformation that has happened in-between those dates have joined forces to make Fishman the poet, editor, scholar, and teacher he has become.

In May 1999, after Naomi’s death, Fishman replaced his given middle name with her maiden name, to honor her memory.

 

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