Tom Clark, Berkeley Poet, Killed in Auto Collision

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Tom Clark, 77, was struck by a car and killed in Berkeley; the driver involved in the accident is cooperating with investigators.

Tom Clark, an extensively published poet and biographer, died after being struck by a car Friday night in Berkeley, the Alameda County coroner's office confirmed. He was 77.

Berkeleyside reported that Clark was crossing The Alameda at Marin Avenue in North Berkeley when the collision occurred. A Berkeley police spokesperson told the news outlet that the driver, a 59-year-old Richmond man, is cooperating with the investigation, and that the motorist didn't appear to be impaired by drugs or alcohol.

According to a Poetry Foundation biography, Clark wrote dozens of books of poetry and multiple novels and story collections, plus biographies of literary figures such as Jack Kerouac and Robert Creeley. Between 1963 and 1973 Clark was poetry editor of esteemed literary publication Paris Review, and his criticism appeared in outlets including the San Francisco Chronicle and New York Times.

“Tom Clark, the lyric imp of American poetry, has delivered many decades’ worth of goofy, melancholic, cosmic, playful, and wiggy poems,” wrote Billy Collins, poet laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003, in a review of one of Clark’s final books of poetry, Light & Shade.

According to the Academy of American poets, Clark was born March 1, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois, and worked as a young man at Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park, observing mid-century sports figures that he'd later reference in poems and prose. Clark attended John Carroll University in Ohio and then the University of Michigan before studying at Cambridge University in England, where he met and hitchhiked across Europe with Allen Ginsberg.


"Clark’s poems ranged across many subjects and styles," reads the Poetry Foundation biography, describing his work as "topical, political, and engaged with American experience." Reviewing a 1992 book of poetry, Chronicle critic Joel Lewis called Clark "one of American poetry's most consistent and constant chroniclers of our long sleepwalk to parts unknown."

He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Angelica Heinegg. Together they maintained a blog, Beyond the Pale. It was updated the day Clark died with a post about refugees.

Clark was honored with fellowships and awards from organizations including the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.