As an “angel-headed” adolescent, Hassett (1958-2017) was among the last disciples of the Beats: the mid-century writers and artists whose work shared themes of spirituality, environmental awareness, and political dissidence. He left Venice Beach at the age of fifteen with his thumb pointing skyward. By the time he reached the classrooms of William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Hassett’s early life was already one of uncompromised nonconformity, intentional obscurity, and above all, radiant poetry. His life continues to embody Marcuse’s “Great Refusal,” and has found him variously in jail cells with infamous political dissidents; in the salons of Nepalese poets; deported from Morocco; arrested in Athens; in detention by British military in caves beneath the Rock of Gibraltar; at dinner tables with famed writers and filmmakers in Rome, Paris, Istanbul, NY, and LA; and on the sofas of Chavistas, Panthers, and Weather Underground; in riots in Chile; at Marxist-Lacanian conferences in Berlin; in confinement in Frankfurt during the Chernobyl meltdown; in Beijing and Stockholm with Kung Fu masters; at tango parlors in Buenos Aires; in Tahrir Square with a million Egyptians…
In recent years, Hassett struggled with late-stage cancer, but continued to live his life by his terms: in perfect alignment with his belief system, fearlessly, poetically, and with limitless compassion. Despite his great physical discomfort, he maintained the highest level of grace: acknowledging and thanking, even bringing a smile or a laugh, to every nurse, doctor or human who briefly entered his realm—just as he had with the many, many people he interacted with all over the world. He was a Bodhisattva among men, and, just as he lived by his terms, he died by his terms: at home, at the precise moment that the sun emerged from a glorious morning sky.
Hassett’s life has been an unceasing and courageous half-century of philosophical inquiry, civil disobedience, defiance of existing socio-political structures, flagrant rebellion, and pursuit of the Real, of which his poetry reflects.
Erin Currier, New Mexico 2017