John “Jack” Hopper was born in Philadelphia, where he attended historic Central High School—a superior educational experience which continues to inform his life. His grandfather was a concert violinist, painter, linguist, club tennis player, and role model. After graduating as a history major from Muhlenberg College in 1956, Jack was drafted by the army and sent to Orleans, France, where he served as a passport courier and liaison with the U.S. Embassy in Paris, and he came to know and love the city that would nurture his creative spirit if it didn’t ruin his health.
After the army, Jack returned to Paris in 1959, where he lived until 1961, working at translating, reviewing books for Combat (“Lettres sans visa”), dubbing films, teaching English, and reporting on jazz for Metronome and Downbeat magazines, while traveling in Europe and dreaming the impossible Great American Novel. His interest in poetry and drama grew, and two of his plays were produced on AVRO Dutch radio. In 1961 he returned to the U.S., moved briefly to New York City, and then drove with three post-Kerouac friends to San Francisco. While there, Miscellany, his first collection of poetry, appeared.
In 1963, Hopper returned to New York, living on the Lower East Side. He reported for Time while editing Time Inc.’s house organ, f.y.i. After a year, he left to freelance, among other activities writing a treatment on the Mafia for the filmmaker Louis de Rochemont. He wrote the play The Year of the Census (La Mama Experimental Theatre Club), and played guitar in the folk-rock musical The Golden Screw, Tom Sankey’s pioneering creation, which opened at the Provincetown Playhouse and won an Obie in 1967. (The show’s music was recorded and issued by Atlantic Records/ATCO in 1967, and the entire play was filmed by N.E.T.’s Channel 13, but was declared unsuitable family fare and never aired.) The musical also traveled to Montreal’s EXPO in 1967. Jack married Wendy Berzine in 1966 and went to work at the scholarly publishing and reprint house, AMS Press, which he served as chief editor until 2005. While at AMS he founded and coedited the literary quarterly Works. In 2005 he moved to Ithaca, NY. (He continues to edit for AMS.) In the course of his New York City years, Jack and Wendy adopted and raised two sons—Jonathan and Owen. Wendy died in 2004.
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