Emeryville Poet Laureate Sarah Kobrinsky’s exodus from E’ville made headlines recently mostly because it came at the hands of a Planning Commissioner. Kobrinsky gives SF Chronicle reporter Ryan Kost a tour of our city (that she refers to as the closest she could get to San Francisco without paying San Francisco prices.) and talks about the irony that is Emeryville.
Kost also converses with Mayor Atkin who helped the city adopt the Poet Laureate program and reveals some tidbits about its industrial past. Emeryville’s borders were apparently drawn around the premise of creating a tax shelter for those made wealthy by the Gold Rush in the 1800’s. “It has this industrial past, a rugged past, and you can kind of still feel an element of that,” notes Kobrinksy in the interview. “That is interesting to me, more than the box stores — the history of a place that made things.”
Emeryville’s poet laureate recasts a small city in verse
By Ryan Kost
Sarah Kobrinsky slides behind the wheel of her Buick. She calls it her Midwestern-grandma car. “Oh, it’s hot!” She rolls down the windows. “I’ll give you the tour of Emeryville,” she says. All 1.2 square miles of it.
Five years ago, Kobrinksy moved here because it was the closest she could get to San Francisco, right there at the foot of the Bay Bridge, without paying San Francisco prices. About 10,000 people live in Emeryville, a puzzle-piece-shaped place founded by a man who didn’t like the rules of the towns that were already there and decided to make his own. Former U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren once called it “the rottenest city on the Pacific Coast.” Kobrinsky calls it “a place on the edge of things.”
For the past year and half, she’s been serving as the city’s poet laureate, the second in its history, teasing the poetry out of a place that is probably best known for its Ikea, in a role nobody knows about. But even if most people hardly stop to consider Emeryville, it’s still caught up in the Bay Area’s storm, and earlier this year Kobrinsky had to move to Point Richmond when her rent jumped 38 percent.
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Feature Image: Tim Hussin/SF Chronicle