Mendocino County's First Poet Laureate ~ Devreaux Baker

devreaux baker readingAfter receiving nominations for over 30 poets, studying the applications of the nominees that chose to be considered, and conducting in-depth interviews, we are excited and proud to announce that the first Poet Laureate of Mendocino County will be Devreaux Baker.  All members of the Poet Laureate Committee heartily agree that she embodies so much of what is best in poetry and that she has the skill and commitment to bring that to this county as a whole.

Devreaux Baker has published five books of poetry and received the PEN Oakland Award for her book of poetry, Red Willow People. Her poetry has been published in numerous magazines and journals including The Crab Orchard Review, ZYZZYVA, Persimmon Tree, and Poetry in Flight/Poesia En Velo. She has received the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Poetry Fellowship in Taos, New Mexico, the Hawthornden Castle Poetry Fellowship in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the MacDowell Poetry Fellowship in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Her poetry awards include: the 2022 Fischer International Poetry Prize, the 2019 Barbara Mandigo Kelly International Peace Poetry Prize, the 2017 Joe Gouveia Outermost International Poetry Prize, the 2016 U.S. Poets in Mexico Award, the 2012 Hawaii Council on Humanities International Poetry Prize, and the 2010 Women’s Global Leadership Poetry Award. She has taught in this county with the California Poets in the Schools program and produced The Voyager’s Radio Program of Original Student Writing for KZYX with a California Arts Council Grant.

At this juncture some of you might ask, “What is a Poet Laureate?” It is an honorary position. There is a Poet Laureate of the United States, a California State Poet Laureate, and in recent years many counties, cities, and other entities have also established Poet Laureate positions. A Poet Laureate is generally expected to be a highly regarded writer that will be the public face of poetry for the duration of their term in office (in this case 2 years). It will be the Poet Laureate’s duty to engage with as much of our county as possible to generally inspire us, spread an understanding of the art of poetry, use poetry to celebrate and commemorate certain occasions, and engage in projects of her choosing to enhance our cultural lives.

One of the projects Devreaux Baker will pursue as Mendocino County’s first Poet Laureate is publishing an anthology of Mendocino County Women Poets, Spirit of Place, Volume II to follow the Mendocino Women Poets Anthology; Wood, Water, Air and Fire which was published in 1999 and which she also helped edit. 

The new Poet Laureate will be formally acknowledged at the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors meeting on June 4th. At the 49th anniversary and 19th consecutive revival of the Mendocino Spring Poetry Celebration on Sunday, June 16, 2024, Devreaux Baker will be “crowned” by the poetry community at Mendocino High School. 

At this time we would also like to acknowledge some of the historic shoulders that our current poetry community stands upon: Mary Norbert Korte and ruth weiss (who both died too soon to be honored as our Poet Laureate), Sharon Doubiago (whose health doesn’t allow her to travel here anymore), Dan Roberts (whose health didn’t allow him to pursue his Poet Laureate nomination), and two poets who in the last few months have left this life, Gordon Black (KZYX programmer, and for many years the principal convener of the annual Mendocino Spring Poetry Celebration) and Bill Bradd. 

For interviews, to schedule readings, or more information on the Mendocino County Poet Laureate Program contact Devreaux at You can also find Devreaux at

The Mendocino Poet Laureate Committee is Michael Riedell (former Ukiah Poet Laureate, District 2), Blake More (Point Arena Poet Laureate, District 5), Larry Felson (District 4), and Kirk Lumpkin (District 3).

Big River Adagio

Twilight at Big River beach and pelicans are circling tidal pools
searching for a safe place to drift and dream in the coming dark.

Anxious to empty the day’s thoughts and leave them as footprints
to be washed out to sea, I walk barefoot on the sand. The light is filled

with that soft familiar voice that acts as intermediary between night and day
but I feel the old sorrow for no reason that rises and falls in sea wind

and seems to permeate the air and belong to this rocky shore and in belonging
to the shore also belongs to me. I think of the family of all of us walking together 

like this through twilight, opening some long-lost book of the dead trying
to make sense of the senseless puzzle that is the violent history that permeates

our lives, until all the diverse pieces of that puzzle are drawn to fit themselves
back together and abide with this other uncanny feeling of something forever lost

or disappearing all around us. It is the lay of the storm-washed rocks at the edge
of the cliffs that offer solace in their abiding grace on the margins of water and land

that can suddenly bring me to my knees and remind me there is still time
to be a part of the cartography of surprising possibilities in this lowering dark.

I can sit awhile and allow the voices from the past and present to create a tapestry
of lives that offer comfort in this cold Pacific air and perhaps like the pelicans,

seek a haven, quiet my questions of why or what for, by drifting into the space
that time offers, in the folds of her dark blue tent.

Devreaux Baker
Big River Beach, Mendocino, CA