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MARK BALDRIDGE (1948 – 2014)


markbaldridge Baldridge Family photo

Mark Baldridge

The man behind the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival: Mark Baldridge, 1948-2014

By Sharon Coleman

For decades, Berkeley has been enriched by a vibrant literary community with poetry at its heart, as we see in downtown Berkeley’s Addison Street Poetry Walk. At the heart of the poetry community since 1972 has been Poetry Flash, a hub for reviews, articles, event listings, and presenter of many singular literary events. And at the heart of Poetry Flash since 1995 has been Mark Baldridge, in so many capacities from board member to web master, but most notably as Director of the annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival.

When Robert Hass was named first U. S. Poet Laureate from the West in 1995, he joined in meetings at International Rivers Network with poets and ecologists to discuss “Nature and the American Imagination,” the theme of his laureateship, and to think of ways to engage the public using poetry. Having left a corporate career and started his own small advertising agency, hungry to do something real, Mark attended these meetings. From the discussions came the idea for the first Watershed Festival that took place in April 1996 at the Bandshell of Golden Gate Park.

Over a thousand people attended to hear poets Joy Harjo, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, and others. With Joyce Jenkins, editor and publisher of Poetry Flash, Mark wrote a major grant to the Creative Work Fund for “Down to Earth: Fifty-foot Rubbing Panels.” These were wooden panels carved in bas-relief by New Zealand artist Shane Eagleton that people could place paper over and make a rubbing. On them were designs, embedded driftwood, and a poem by Robert Hass. The grant came through, and the panels were unveiled at the Festival along with a sculpture, also by Eagleton, of a life-size humpback whale and baby whale carved from a single storm-salvaged redwood log. Joining the big poets on the stage were many children also sharing their poetry. It was huge and magical. And became an annual event

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© 2015 by Sharon Coleman/Berkeleyside



At Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma, CA (2008), poet Joyce Jenkins — in the musical company of her partner Mark Baldridge, a feeling flautist — reads from Joy Road and other recent work. |  Photo: Al Young

“Boom! Just Like That!”
Al Young’s memorial poem
for Mark Baldridge


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