Local Obituaries

Sacramento poet Ann Menebroker dies at 80

Ann Menebroker, who passed away July 9, wrote more than 20 books of poetry.
Ann Menebroker, who passed away July 9, wrote more than 20 books of poetry. Sue Menebroker McElligott

Ann Menebroker, a poet of international stature and a Sacramento resident, died here July 9 at age 80 from cancer that was diagnosed 8 1/2 years ago.

Menebroker wrote more than 20 books of poetry, appeared in numerous anthologies, curated a poetry journal and contributed to a wide range of small-press poetry magazines. Her works were published internationally in many languages. Early in her career, she co-edited “Landing Signals,” the first anthology of works by Sacramento poets.

She was a frequent participant in the programs at the Sacramento Poetry Center and Luna’s Cafe. “She was very shy and was always reluctant when we asked her to read her own works,” recalled poetry center president Bob Stanley. “She would say, ‘Oh, I’m not very good, please ask someone else.’ But when she got up there, she had a very powerful presence and everyone loved her readings.”

Decades ago, Menebroker was a close friend of larger-than-life poet-novelist Charles Bukowski (1920-1994), called by Time magazine in 1986 the “laureate of American lowlife.”

“I was a little girl when they were friends and pen pals,” said her daughter, Sue Menebroker McElligott of Nevada City. “I used to go to the mailbox and see letters from him. He dedicated one of his books (of short stories) to her, ‘South of No North’ (1973). He was just one of her many poet friends, (but) he happened to be famous.” Years later, Menebroker wrote a memoir of their friendship titled “Surviving Bukowski.”

Menebroker was a member of the Tough Old Broads of Poetry, a quartet of Sacramento poets and longtime friends that included former Sacramento poet laureate Viola Weinberg, Kathryn Hohlwein and Victoria Dalkey, The Sacramento Bee’s art correspondent. One of their crowning moments was a special-event poetry reading at the Verge Center for the Arts in June 2014. More than 300 fans attended.

Recalling her friend of 35 years, Weinberg characterized Menebroker’s poetry style as “narrative, because every one of her poems told an explicit story. She had a terrific sense of humor but was extremely modest. If there were a roomful of egotistical writers, Annie would be the calm in the center of it. She loved that we had earned the name ‘Tough Old Broads.’ She would say, ‘This is mine.’ 

Weinberg added that Menebroker maintained a “huge correspondence of lengthy, soulful letters to people all over the world.”

Menebroker worked at various office jobs and retired as a teacher’s aide, but “her profession was poetry,” said Menebroker McElligott. “She published constantly and was writing to the very end. She had a passion for the arts, but she wasn’t (a poet) for the money.”

As for services, Menebroker McElligott said, “I knew she wanted to be cremated, but she wrote her own obituary, which is how I found out she wanted no services. Many of her poet friends want to do a celebration later in the summer, but I would like to stick to her wishes. She did not like a lot of attention, so it makes me smile when I see her friends on Facebook making a big to-do. She was very shy, and here she was, this poet.”

Menebroker was born in Washington, D.C., but had lived in Sacramento since 1950. She is survived by her children: John J. Kennedy, Lauri Solari, Menebroker McElligott and her son-in-law, Kevin McElligott; brothers Hal Reynolds, Jim Reynolds and Gary Reynolds; three grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and extended family. The poet’s ex-husband, Wayne Menebroker, with whom she remained close after their divorce, died in May.

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe

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