Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ina Coolbrith's Lost City of Love and Desire

Today is the 106th anniversary of the Great 1906 Earthquake and Fire. Many lost their lives, and many, many more lost their possessions. Ina Coolbrith, who would be crowned California's first poet laureate nine years later, lost everything but the clothes she wore and her two cats, which she and her housekeeper carried through the tangled streets of San Francisco. Here is an excerpt from an essay I wrote about her experience that day:

Seconds before the 1906 earthquake hit, a pre-dawn light crept into Ina Donna Coolbrith’s parlor on San Francisco’s Russian Hill. A gilded photo album and a small vase rested on a wooden table rubbed hard with beeswax. Books grouped by height filled a four-tiered, doublewide bookshelf. A recently completed manuscript, ready for its publisher after nearly a decade of work, was stacked neatly inside of a small secretary desk.

Outside, a nervous horse neighed breaking the stillness of night. Then a crack, a jolt, and an explosion ripped through San Francisco, and for a long 45 seconds, streets buckled, bricks collapsed, metal groaned, and cracked plaster crashed into powdery blasts of dust...

Read it in its entirety at the Ina Coolbrith Circle website.