Berkeley Poetry Festival

Poster for Berkeley Poetry Festival and Art in the Atrium

The 10th Annual Poetry Festival was held on May 5th, from 1 – 4:30 P.M., in the Auditorium at Berkeley City College, 2050 Center St. (1 block from Berkeley BART station, between Milvia and Shattuck Ave.)

The Poetry Festival was held in conjunction with the 2nd Annual Art in the Atrium Festival, held in the adjacent Atrium, from 11 AM - 4:30 P.M. The Art Festival featured award winning digital print makers and photographers.






Mother's Hen has sponsored and co-ordinated the Berkeley Poetry Festival for thirteen years.

The Berkeley Poetry Festival’s primary mission is to support and encourage poetry in the community. We have been running poetry readings in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1971. The Touch of a Poet Series, which was held at the Berkeley Art Museum, transitioned into the Berkeley Poetry Festival in 1998. At that time, the City of Berkeley, with specific sponsorship from Councilman Kriss Worthington, joined Mother’s Hen staff, Louis Cuneo and Marcia Poole, to found and support The Berkeley Poetry Festival.

The public can view the complete history of the Berkeley Poetry Festival at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley or access our web site for links to videos of past events. For further information, contact Louis Cuneo, poet, founder and producer of the BPF at lcuneo@mindspring.com.

1st & 2nd Festivals

The 1st and 2nd Festivals, held in 1998 and 1999, took place at the Berkeley Art Museum's Sculpture Garden and the Pacific Film Archives. The format was a two day festival that showcased a continuous Open Mic, Featured Readers from the San Francisco Bay Area, Featured Readers from Sacramento and a Poetry Slam.

The 2nd Festival was videotaped by Berkeley Citizen's L A Wood and offered for sale and shown on Berkeley Community Media cable Channel 28.

3rd and 4th Festivals

We switched the location to the Berkeley Community Media studios in 2000 and 2002 and were able to broadcast live over Channel 28 for 5 hours to all of Berkeley - a 2 hour Poetry Slam and a 3 hour Open Mic

We also ran a 5 hour Private Readings Studio where poets were invited to come in and read their poetry. They were introduced by an MC and could take a tape of their reading home with them. Tapes from all three events were later edited and have been shown repeatedly throughout the years on Channel 28, made available to other public broadcast stations and given to the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.

They had a Poet's Exchange Table for people to place their books, flyers, CDs, etc. on to sell, trade or give away. A printed program was published that included an Open Mic Directory for the San Francisco Bay Area and was distributed free at both festivals.

Our goal was to encourage people to listen to the poets from the various community Open Mics and to publicize their series. The festivals were free to the public and everyone was invited to participate.

5th Festival

The 5th Berkeley Poetry Festival was held June 5, 2004 at Civic Center Park (Provo Park) in downtown Berkeley. It was joined by the Berkeley Community Fair which hosted various booths for independent publishers, poets, visual artists and crafts people, neighborhood groups, community organizations and a Red Cross Blood Drive.

Julia Vinograd was presented with the 1st Lifetime Achievement Award for her great body of work. The day's events were videotaped by Berkeley Citizen's owner, L A Wood and offered for sale and put on Berkeley Community Media cable Channel 28.

A printed program was published that included an Open Mic Directory for the San Francisco Bay Area and was distributed free.

6th Festival

The 6th Berkeley Poetry Festival was held April 29, 2006 from Noon to 6 PM in the Conference Room of the North Berkeley Senior Center, at Hearst & Martin Luther King Jr. Way in North Berkeley.

The format was a traditional Open Mic with Featured Readers series, the type that exists throughout the Bay Area.

Jack Hirschman, current Poet Laureate of San Francisco, read his rousing verse. We also had many well known poets from this area read as Featured Readers: Jack & Adele Foley, Jennifer Stone, Julia Vinograd, Dale Jensen, Judy Wells, Randy Fingland, Dorothy Jesse Beagle, Lucille Lang Day, Louis Cuneo, Debra Grace Khattab, Kirk Lumpkin, Tsahai Unger, Phillip Nails, etc.

The Open Mic readers were interspersed with the Featured Readers and it was open to anyone whose name was chosen from the noon lottery. Poets wishing to participate in the Open Mic arrived before Noon and placed their names in the Open Mic lottery. The names were called out at Noon. Tshai Unger and Phillip Nails acted as co-MCs of the Festival.

The second Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Berkeley poet Maggi H. Meyer, who kept the Berkeley poetry scene together through decades of loose and lively readings. A Poet's Table was set up to showcase various poets' books, cds, videos and flyers. All poets were able to place their work on the table and received all proceeds from the sales of these items.

We distributed the Open Mic Directory of the San Francisco Bay Area to everyone who attended the Festival. This is the only free Open Mic Directory in the Bay Area and includes all the pertinent information on the various local series.

Every poet was encouraged to participate. New poets, seasoned poets, jazz poets and their groups, slam poets. The Festival was free and was all inclusive, sponsored by the City of Berkeley, Mother's Hen, Panoramic Interests & Patrick Kennedy & Lean Frog Graphics. We welcomed everyone.

7th Festival

The 7th Berkeley Poetry Festival was held in conjunction with the Berkeley World Music Festival on June 6th, 2009, Noon - 4 P.M., in front of Cody's Book Store on Telegraph Avenue in the heart of Berkeley's literary scene. The Poetry Festival was sponsored by the City of Berkeley, Mother's Hen, Minuteman Press and Lean Frog Graphics.

The Berkeley Poetry Festival and the City of Berkeley Councilman Kriss Worthington were proud to present the 3rd Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry to Joyce Jenkins. Jenkins has been the editor of Poetry Flash, a national bi-monthly poetry magazine, since the 1970’s and is credited with bringing poetry to the community in a lively and interesting way . She is also a nationally recognized poet in her own right.

The Berkeley Poetry Festival again brought together Featured Poets and Open Mic readers from the poetic community in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The 7th BPF's Featured Poets included:  Joyce Jenkins; Jack and Adele Foley; Julia Vinograd; Richard Silberg; Kirk Lumpkin; Dale Jensen; Judy Wells; Steve Arntson; Kenore Weiss; Diana Quartermaine; Mark States and many others. The Festival's MC was San Francisco poet, Phillip Nails.

Poets who wished to read in the Open Mic put their names in the lottery are were given slots interspersed with the Featured Readers.

The Festival was a great success and everyone who stopped by got to view the richness and diversity of the Bay Area poetic community.

8th Festival

The 8th Berkeley Poetry Festival was held in conjunction with the Berkeley World Music Festival on June 5th, 2010, from 1 — 6 P.M., in front of the former Cody's Book Store on Telegraph Avenue in the heart of Berkeley's literary scene. The Poetry Festival was sponsored by the City of Berkeley, Mother's Hen, Minuteman Press and Lean Frog Graphics and was free to all.

The Berkeley Poetry Festival and the City of Berkeley Councilman Kriss Worthington were proud to present the 4th Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry to Jack Foley. Foley has been part of the Bay Area poetry scene since the 1980s as an Open Mic coordinator, historian of poetry in print (Poetry Flash and other publications), host of a radio show on KPFA for twenty years, & has published books of his own poetry and prose.

Past award winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award have been Joyce Jenkins, Maggie Meyer and Julia Vinograd.

The Berkeley Poetry Festival again brought together Featured Poets and Open Mic readers from the poetic community in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The 8th BPF's Featured Poets included:  Jack and Adele Foley; Julia Vinograd; Marc Kockinos; Kirk Lumpkin; MK Chavez ; Daniel Yaryan: Larry Beresford; Rose Mark; Steve Arntson; Selene Steese; Jan Steckel; Ivan Arquelles; Randy Fingland; Katherine Hastings; Mary-Marcia Casoly; Lucille Lang Day; Clive Matson; Bob Booker; Louis Cuneo; and Tobey Kaplan.

The Festival's MC was Berkeley actor, director, producer and reader, Thomas R. Lynch.

Poets who wished to read in the Open Mic put their names in the lottery are were given slots interspersed with the Featured Readers.

The Festival was a another great success . People left the event singing "Its Jack Foley Day, Its Jack Foley Day." And it was.

9th Festival

The 9th Berkeley Poetry Festival was held on May 21st, 2011, from 1 — 5 P.M. in the auditorium of Berkeley City College, in the heart of the Berkeley's arts district. We concurrently featured an Art in the Atrium Festival just in front of the auditorium. We have been wanting to feature the visual arts alongside poetry for many years and we finally had the appropriate space to do it in. Marcia Poole and Berkeley City College instructors Jan Dove & Sharon Coleman organized this section.

We were proud to present Adam David Miller with the City of Berkeley's Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry for his 50–year commitment to the educational and literary community of the San Francisco Bay Area. Miller was nominated for the award by Berkeley Councilperson Kriss Worthington. Previous winners were Julia Vinograd, Maggie Meyer, Joyce Jenkins and Jack Foley.

The Berkeley Poetry Festival again brought together Featured Poets and Open Mic readers from the poetic community in the San Francisco Bay Area. Marc Kockinos was this year’s host M.C. and the infamous Wes “Scoop” Nisker led the Invocation.

The poets reading for the 9th Berkeley Poetry Festival were: Jack and Adelle Foley, Julia Vinograd, Jack Hirschman, Adam David Miller, Judy Wells, Ribitch, Jannie M. Dresser, Marc Kockinos, Sharon Coleman, Dale Jensen, Linda King, Mel C. Thompson, Jeanne Lupton, Steve Arntson, Dave Holt, Richard Loranger, Claudia Castro Luna, Shaun Freeland, Inna Nopuente, Pamela Brenman, Tomas Moniz, as well as five Open Mic poets sekected just before the Festival opened by a lottery.

We also presented poets from Berkeley City College’s Milvia Street Art and Literary Journal in a special feature led by Sharon Coleman. We concurrently feature their art work, along with both traditional and digital artists from Berkeley City College, in the atrium, which is just in front of the auditorium.

Our traditional Poets' Table was set up in the atrium and run by Mother's Hen poets Randy Fingland and Dale Jensen. Poets placed their publications on the table for sale or exchange.

The event was videotaped by San Francisco's John Rhodes and is available for viewing at: http://rhodespoetry.com/video.html

The Poetry Festival was sponsored by the City of Berkeley, Alameda County, Mother's Hen and Lean Frog Graphics. It was free to all and wheelchair accessible.It was a great success.

10th Festival

The 10th Berkeley Poetry Festival was held on May 5th, 2012, from 1 — 4:30 P.M. in the auditorium of Berkeley City College, in the heart of the Berkeley's arts district. We concurrently featured the 2nd Art in the Atrium Festival just in front of the auditorium. We started featuring the visual arts alongside poetry last year since we finally had the appropriate space to do it in. Marcia Poole and Berkeley City College instructors Jan Dove & Sharon Coleman organized this section.

We were proud to present Clive Matson with the City of Berkeley's Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry for his 45–year commitment to the educational and literary community of the San Francisco Bay Area. Matson was nominated for the award by Berkeley Councilperson Kriss Worthington. Previous winners were Julia Vinograd, Maggie Meyer, Joyce Jenkins, Jack Foley, and Adam David Miller.

We presented a special performance, Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts featuring Daniel Yaryan, Marc Olmsted and Suzi Kaplan Olmsted.

Marc Kockinos, the host M.C., introduced the poets and entertained everyone with his easy-going style. The infamous Wes “Scoop” Nisker led the Invocation.

The poets who read for the 1oth Berkeley Poetry Festival were: Clive Matson, Jack and Adelle Foley, Mary Mackey, Joan Gatten, Gary Turchin, Julia Vinograd, Mark Schwartz, Alice Rogoff, Glenn Ingersoll, Sharon Coleman, Kirk Lumkin, Jeanne Lupton, H.D. Moe and Open Mic Poets

Eligibility to read at the Open Mic was by lottery. Those interested in being heard arrived early and put their name ‘in the hat’ for a drawing of the limited available spots that day.

The visual artists for the 2nd Art in the Atrium Festival were: Jan Dove, Sammuel M. Ribitch,Kristin Doner, Marcia Poole & Louis Cuneo, Jo-Anna Pippin, Yuksel Dinccag, Gary Turchin, Barry M. Shapiro, Judith Allen, Al Edgerton, Joanna Ruckman, Kevin Tikker, Cheryl Robertson, Erika Gagnon, Gabriel Martinez, Diane Wallace, Vickie Leonard, Arden K. Varnel and others. All sales went directly to the artists.

The Festival also showcased small press books by the Festival poets and artists. They were displayed on two tables in the atrium. People were invited to peruse the works and were encouraged to buy. All sales went directly to the poets and artists.

We distributed the Open Mic Directory of the San Francisco Bay Area to everyone who attended the Festival. This is the only free Open Mic Directory in the Bay Area and includes all the pertinent information on the various local series.

The event was free and wheelchair accessible.

The event was a great success. We announced that we were turning the Berkeley Poetry Festival over to Sharon Coleman. We had enjoyed producing the 10 Festivals and felt it was now time to inject another spirit into it and for us to go forward in our new ventures.

The Festival was funded and supported by the City of Berkeley, Mother's Hen, Minuteman Press & the Downtown Berkeley Association. We wish to thank Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington for his continued support to the Berkeley Poetic Community.