Thanks to the Berkeley Historical Society, the Berkeley Historical Plaque Project, and the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association, Ina Coolbrith has joined her friends in the Berkeley Hills. It's a gesture that is more than a century overdue.
In East Berkeley, where one can walk pleasantly in the hills for hours, there is a constellation of streets, stairways, and paths that immortalize the early literarti of the San Francisco Bay Area. Clustered between Marin Avenue, Euclid Avenue, Shasta Road, and Grizzly Peak Boulevard you will discover byways named after Coolbrith's male colleagues including Joaquin Miller, Mark Twain, George Sterling, Charles Warren Stoddard, Charles Keeler, and Bret Harte. In fact, Bret Harte had four named after him.
The City of Berkeley has changed the name of a stairway from Bret Harte Lane to Ina Coolbrith Path. It's a stairway that connects Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Miller Avenue, and at the base of the stairway, the Berkeley Historical Plaque Association and the Berkeley Historical Society has installed a new plaque to honor Ina Coolbrith.
Why Ina Coolbrith you may ask? Read the argument in Berkeleyside.
I discovered this cluster of streets while working on Ina Coolbrith: The Bittersweet Song of California's First Poet Laureate. When my friend went on vacations, I used her cabana above Gourmet Ghetto as a writing retreat. Once I discovered on my daily walks that Ina's friends were immortalized and she was not, I brought her with me on my walks by reciting her poetry out loud:
|IT’S O my heart, my heart,|
|To be out in the sun and sing—|
|To sing and shout in the fields about,|
|In the balm and the blossoming...|
Now I'm happy to report it's official. Ina is cavorting with her friends and literary companions in the hills of Berkeley.
A big heartfelt thank you goes out to whose who made this happen: Charlie Bowen, Jeanine Castello, Steven Finacom, Robert Kehlmann, Carl Wikander, and especially Burl Willes, Ina's angel, who approached me after a book reading at Books Inc. and said, "I am here to represent the Berkeley Historical Society, and want to know how to right the wrong of shortchanging Ina Coolbrith."