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Best Poetry Events In The East Bay

UC Berkeley and Berkeley City College know that no matter how you feel, a poet can express your innermost thoughts, from humble to noble or quirky to classic. Avant garde expressions about race, universal longing for love from ancient times, despair and wackiness; inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether you seek the height of humanity or prefer to grovel whimsically in its mirthful depths, you can do so with poetry in the East Bay. Celebrate National Poetry Month with any of these great events.

Lunch Poems
University of California at Berkeley
Morrison Room in Doe Library
Berkeley, CA 94720

Dates: Visit Website

Lunch Poems a noontime poetry reading series, presenting a wide range of distinguished faculty in an intimate setting. What better way to relax and feel rejuvenated and enlightened than to spend your lunch with a distinguished UC Berkeley faculty member presenting his/her favorite poem? Professor Robert Hass hosts the event in the Morrison Room of the majestic Doe Library. Even the building looks poetic as the marble stairs have worn down softly in the center from generations of visitors.


Anne Carson at Holloway Reading Series
University of California at Berkeley
Maude Fife Room
Berkeley, CA 94720

Date: April 17

The Holloway Reading Series features Anne Carson, who crosses genres and writes on love, longing, desire and despair. She's written libretti, shooting scripts for television and poems addressed to paintings. Critics describe her work as everything from willfully whimsical and delightfully peculiar to heartbreaking. She remains reticent and private herself although talks of herself as a visual artist. She derives her themes from ancient classics. Carson is in residence at UC Berkeley and taught a course in creative writing.

Berkeley Poetry Festival & Arts Fair 

Berkeley City College Atrium and Auditorium
2050 Center St.
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 665-8617

Date: May 11

The 11th annual Berkeley Poetry Festival is a community-based event with heartfelt recitals. Sharon Coleman of the English Department runs the festival. It's one block from downtown Berkeley's BART station and easily walkable or bikeable. Try your luck with the open-mic lottery or trade in your books at the exchange table. If you also like visual art, the poetry festival happens in conjunction with an art festival. Mary Rudge will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. She's an Alameda Poet Laureate and teacher.

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starry plough 1

The Berkeley Slam
Starry Plough
3101 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 841-2082

Dates: Every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

The Berkeley Poetry Slam happens live before your eyes with local and international poets, storytellers and emcees. Each Wednesday night, the Starry Plough presents an all new show with a live improvisational band or DJ. It's first come, first served, then poets are chosen by lottery and the judges come from the audience. The 15 poets draw 100-250 audience members weekly. Check out this raucous event on the Facebook page since it's anything goes from dirty haiku to erotic slam bingo. The slam sometimes allows props, costumes and accompanying music.

poetry flash

Poetry Flash
Several local locations

Poetry Flash publishes online and holds regular poetry readings with award-winning talent. If you like the sedate environment of your local independent bookstore, Poetry Flash presents readings amidst your neighbors at a myriad of sunny cafes and bistros. Most of the poets reading have won awards but represent vastly diverse cultures.

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Cindy Warner is a freelance writer and a San Francisco Bay Area native. Cindy has covered SF theater and opera for via her bicycle since January 2009. Check out her work on


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