Roads of Bread

POETS LIVING, AND LIVING ON…

Sunday, 7/24 at 2:30

“Roads of Bread”
Poets pay tribute
to the late Eugene Ruggles

hosted by Martin Hinkle, with readings by Clive Matson, Jack & Adele Foley, Doreen Stock, Carl Macki and Dela Moon

(from a 2004 SF Chronicle article): Eugene Ruggles’ overriding sympathy for victims of injustice that led him to develop large-venue political poetry benefits in San Francisco during the early 1970s. “Anyone who knows Gene knows his most astounding characteristic is his heart,” said longtime friend and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, former San Francisco poet laureate and owner and founder of City Lights Bookstore. “He really empathizes with the downtrodden and the down-and-out. ”

The poetry benefits Ruggles organized attracted hundreds of people, which was unusual for a poetry reading. Through the 1970s and early 1980s, Ruggles organized about 20 benefits that raised money and generated publicity for organizations such as Amnesty International and political causes such as the 18-month takeover of Alcatraz Island by American Indians in 1969 and the 1972 U.S. bombing of the Bach Mai Hospital during the Vietnam War.

Kaye McDonough, who now lives on the East Coast, said Ruggles’ strong feelings against the Vietnam War and racial discrimination ignited similar passions in other poets, and the results were highly charged events that bore little resemblance to traditional poetry readings. “Gene was very passionate about these issues, and he was able to tap into the same feeling in other poets. He galvanized them,” she said. “It was Gene who made these things happen. ” Ruggles was able to attract the best local poets, and others who traveled across the country to read at his benefits. They included Ferlinghetti, Andre Codrescu, Gary Snyder, Jack Hirschman, Kaye Boyle, and the international grand dame of poet activists, Muriel Rukeyser. According to Alex McQueen, editor of the 1973 Bay Area poetry anthology “185,” the readings had the energy of rock ‘n’ roll events. “They were thrilling because they had such incredible meaning in a very frustrating political environment,” she said. “And Gene, of course, was the handsome poet, and there were thousands of women.”