tv Book Discussion on Ina Coolbrith CSPAN January 3, 2016 10:04am-10:16am EST
october 2016, and in all kinds, doing all kinds of things all over oakland that people will be very, very happy about. i think there's that. and there's the fact with some of the programs we have to that are still sort of lasting. recently the oakland unified school district, the nonprofit that i currently the ceo of has just entered a contract with the oakland unified school district to provide students with a forum. they have been used i in the kitchen and to which remain essential kitchen or name it for or under the black panther party's history of feeding children. so the legacy is there. people know that flsa the panthers did the. i think that legacy is also in the culture of oakland that the black panther party almost single-handedly established, that radical raise the still exists among blacks, latinos and whites.
>> we continue our visit to oakland, california, with a discussion of california's first poet laureate, ina coolbrith. >> my heart, my heart, be out in the sun come to sing and shout in the fields about. sing loud, sing loud in the sky. and honeybees blacken the clover bits. there is none of you glad as i. ina coolbrith. california first poet laureate. she was crowned during the panama pacific international exposition in 1915, 100 years ago. this is her centennial. she was oakland's first public library in and she was california's most elaborate poet for at least 50 years. she was born in the mormon community in illinois. her father was don carl smith, the youngest brother of joseph
smith, the founder of the mormon church. she was raised in the mormon community. her father died when she was only four months old, and six months later her mother became joseph smith's sixth wife. when joseph smith was murdered in jail she then became a plural wife of george smith, a cousin. when the mormons were forced out of illinois, ina's mother not to follow brigham young or the mormons to salt lake. she came to california a few years after the gold rush started. there's one story that ina told years later where she just started school in los angeles and she was probably 15, and she was walking along a road in the level of los angeles, very small
community, inched -- and it was a very hot day and she came upon a newspaper clipping the kind of had blown into her path. she picked it up and it was a profile of a california poet, and she read it and she saw that this guy came to california from somewhere else and then you actually wrote poetry about california. that was a revelation to her because when ina came to california poetry was very, very popular. it was interwoven into society back then, and every single newspaper, there were lots of newspapers, and on the front page of every single newspaper they would be a poem. miners had poetry in saloons. everybody wrote poetry. everybody could recite poetry from famous poets. so it was much different than it is today.
but most of the poems were about somewhere else. and so she read this clipping and saw that poetry could be written by someone in california about california. the interesting thing about ina's poetry is about, and ina herself, was that after the age of 21, she never told, she had the fact that she was a mormon. she also hid the fact that she had been married and had a child. i the age of 21, ina had divorced her husband because he tried to kill her with a six shooter. she also very likely had a child. there's no hard evidence because there were no birth or death certificates at that time, but there is strong reason to believe that she had a child that died. but after the age of 21 she never let anyone knew she was a mormon or that she was married or that she had a child to everybody for whole i thought she was just a poet.
they didn't learn she was a mormon intel today that she died, a couple days after she died. when she became oakland public library in touch with librarian, she brought a bit of celebrity to oakland because she was already published poet who was quite popular. she had been publishing in the overland monthly for years almost in every single issue and the monthly was a bit of a famous literary journal that was critically acclaimed even on the east coast. it was compared to "the atlantic monthly," and bret hart was probably the most famous writer in the west to come out of the american west and he was the editor. and she contributed poems to every single issue for almost a decade. so when she came to oakland, she was a bit of a celebrity coming here to oakland.
the reason that she took the job as librarian was because her sister died and ina became the primary breadwinner for her family of five. and she needed a job to support the family. so she was the librarian for the oakland public library. she worked in the library for 18 years. her own writing suffered during that time, but she was always a mentor to others who choose always very encouraging to other people who are interested in literature and in writing. and jack london was, john london was a saint by the wind by jack, was one of the kids, one of the hundreds of thousands of kids who came into the library. so jack london came in at 10 with his mother's library card and requested a book on come a
travel book, an adventure book. and so ina went and got the book for him and stamped it 40. he was very shy, and it took her several visits to actually get his name from him because he was so shy. he always kept his head down to ask for books. and so she got the book and praised him on his choice. he always remembered it. years and years later when he became a famous one, the more famous writer, he wrote her a letter remembering that very day. the old oakland library days, do you know you're the first one the upper complimented me on my choice of reading matter backs if he only knew how proud your words made me hurt for a that a great deal of you, you are a goddess to me that i didn't know you were a poet or that you'd ever does a wonderful a thing as right a line.
i was wrong, but i stood greatly in all of you. sincerely yours, jack london. he traveled to new york, went to the chicago world's fair which was commissioned to write a poem for a statue in the california building. she was honored in new york and author club luncheon for women. she met some famous writer in new york and then she came back and then she continued to try and filter delivery career by writing and giving lectures. but it was never enough money to live on because as poets know today, it's hard to make a living as a poet. and went on if they than even came up to her and said, our family just lives on your poetry. and she said, well, that's nice to its been more than i've been able to do. it's important to remember that
around the turn-of-the-century around 1900 when she began work at first mercantile, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. so she had very bad arthritis. for the rest of her life. so what happened was in 1915 she was crowned california's first poet laureate. and then in 1919, still frustrated with her output of poetry and remember that should already published two collections. she had written several hundred poems, if not more, but she was unsatisfied with the amount of poetry that she had written. so at 78 years old she packed up her trunks and she moved to manhattan. and for four winters she lived in new york and wrote in of
poetry for a final collection. and she only came home for the summer's on the train only because she couldn't afford to go live in the mountains or the coast when it was hot in the summer. so she came back to san francisco in the summer but she lived in a hotel for four winters in new york. and for some reason her arthritis, she didn't have arthritis when she was in new york. so she was able to work and she had a minor role as a poet in new york. she spoke alongside other famous poets at events. she was a guest speaker at the poetry society of america. she was featured in a magazine and she kind of had a resurgence from her muse. her views came to visit. she felt alive and active, and she loved the young people of new york. she felt welcomed by them, and
she had a really great time in those four years. and when she came back after those four years in service of the she actually wanted to return and she was 82 by this time, but circumstances led to her not being able to go back there. she died in 1928. after she died she was buried in the mountain view cemetery in oakland, but she didn't have a headstone for a think about 80 years, until the ina coolbrith circle finally bought her a beautiful headstone. >> for more information on the booktv's recent visit to oakland and the many other destinations on our cities to work go to c-span.org/cities tour. >> host: we're joined by author luther campbell. here's the book, the book