RIP Mark Baldridge (1948-2014)

watershed

Mark Baldridge, Director of the annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival in Berkeley, California, has died after a battle with cancer. He passed away on December 27th in hospice care.

Baldridge, an all around important figure in the poetry scene of the western United States, was deeply involved in Poetry Flash, an organization known for its important contributions to the poetry community. The Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival is one of Poetry Flash’s most important and best known programs.

In addition to his work for Poetry Flash, Baldridge also ran his own advertising agency, which worked closely with Peet’s Coffee and Tea. With Peet’s, Baldridge created a holiday advertising campaign that utilized poetry as opposed to the jingles of conventional ads. “The poets whose work was selected [for the ad] were paid and got free coffee,” according to an article in Berkeleyside.

In the article, Sharon Coleman writes:

The impact that Mark Baldridge had on Poetry Flash, many other literary and arts organizations…cannot be overstated. While he was not a poet or artist per se, he brought together very creative thinking with a keen analytical sense of logistics and professionalism.

Rusty Morrison, poet and publisher at Omnidawn, writes of Baldridge:

He didn’t voice an opinion until he had something useful to say, but when he was ready to engage, he did so will full heart and attention…He had a talent for making me laugh, and for reminding me that even when things were challenging, we were all lucky to be working in a profession that valued art, language and ideas, not simply the dollar.

According to Berkeleyside, the Albany Library will host “A Gathering of Poets: Readings by Friends of Mark Baldridge and Poetry Flash” on Tuesday January 13th. The event will take place from 7-9pm, and Albany Library is located at 1247 Marin Ave, Albany.