Thursday, March 10, 2022

Mar. 10: Ina Donna Coolbrith, American poet, writer, and mentor


Ina Donna Coolbrith (1841-1928) was an American poet, writer, librarian, and a prominent figure in the San Francisco Bay Area literary community. She was the first California Poet Laureate and the first poet laureate of any American state. Niece of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, she moved to Los Angeles and then San Francisco, writing for editor Bret Harte on the magazine Overland Monthly. Her poetry was praised by the likes of Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, and Tennyson. As City Librarian of Oakland, she mentored young readers including Jack London and Isadora Duncan. You may never have heard of her, but she knew virtually every California writer of her day. She herself wrote the somewhat maudlin "The Mother's Grief" and "When the Grass Shall Cover Me"; and "Copa De Oro (California Poppy)," a paean to a wildflower, among many others.


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