Friday, April 24, 2015

Santa Barbara's New Poet Laureate, Sojourner Kincaid Rolle

Melinda Palacio

Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Sojourner Kincaid Rolle

Earlier this National Poetry Month, the city of Santa Barbara named its sixth Poet Laureate, Sojourner Kincaid Rolle. A historic and long overdue nomination, it was such a joy for all who know of her hard work as a poet and community activist to see her crowned the city's official Poet Laureate on April 7. When Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider called Sojourner to tell her the good news, Sojourner assumed that the mayor wanted to discuss a ballot initiative. Sojourner says it took her several hours to recover from the rush of adrenaline upon hearing the great news. I've known Sojourner for almost 15 years and she had always been labeled unofficially, "The People's Poet." As her friend and poetry colleague (we are both members of the Sunday Poets), I was especially proud to hear of her appointment.
Sojourner Kincaid Rolle crowned in laurels

In her previous occupation, Sojourner graduated from UC Berkeley's School of Law. Although she is not a lawyer, she remains a mediator, activist, and peace maker. Lucky for the community, she has returned to the occupation that occupies her heart, Poet. 

Sojourner helping student poets sell their handmade poetry books.
 Since the tender age of five, when she moved to North Carolina to live with her grandmother, her grandmother thrusted her onto the public stage by teaching her to memorize several poems and one day encouraging her to enter a talent show by reciting a poem. From that day, other students asked Sojourner to visit their class and recite her poem. Thus her career, as guest artist began at age 5 in North Carolina, after Sojourner spent an entire day visiting all the classrooms in a North Carolina school house for grades K-12 reciting her impressive performance. Now Sojourner recites and reads her own poems. As a poet-in-the-school, visiting poet and guest speaker, Sojourner teaches young students how to write poems and read them out loud. She says she espouses the "stand and deliver" technique and gives young students the opportunity to write poems and deliver them in public. She also teaches poetry workshops for adults and has taught several college level courses in the Department of Black Studies at UC Santa Barbara, and is affiliated with the Center for Black Studies Research UCSB, which published her most recent poetry collection, Black Street.

Sunday Poets at the Book Den in Santa Barbara

Sojourner's energy and dedication to the community over the past 30 years is boundless. She is a poet, author of seven books, playwright, environmental educator, and activist. She is instrumental in the yearly tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Langston Hughes, to name a few. Her recent books are Black Street and the Mellow Yellow Global Umbrella, an electronic and audio book showcasing poems for young people. Over the next two years, Sojourner Kincaid Rolle joins past esteemed poets laureate Barry Spacks, David Starkey, Perie Longo, Paul Willis, and Chryss Yost.

Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, Melinda Palacio, Susan Chiavelli and Emma Trelles
After reading with Sunday Poets at the Book Den in Santa Barbara April 19
Sojourner Kincaid Rolle

A Space Where A Poem Ought Be

I’ve known of missing poems before
poems stronger than the suppressing hand
poems more powerful than the invisibility
poems that speak from the realm of the soul
from the place that needs no facade
the place unpalpable where the poem touches
a father’s unrenderable gaze
absent from the family photograph
frozen in clenched smile abstraction
hovering somewhere near the unfathomable
a hole where a heart once lay
cached between bone and muscle
a conduit for that which makes life livable
its beat but an echo its rhythm but a spasm of memory
hurt where a friendship once was
its demise never anticipated
its loss never contemplated
it measure infinite
space where a leg ought be
the missing limb but bits of flesh femur blood
soft shrapnel on a once abandoned war ground
the mined soil holding secret its maiming terror
nothing where something ought be
it is said that to which the missing was adjoined
the left behind
mourns its disattached
one sees the shining knee –
the favored other
there is emptiness longing
grief is spoken
and desire
– Sojourner Kincaid Rolle

UPCOMING Events for SK Rolle
Saturday, April 25 Sojourner Kincaid Rolle joins the Santa Barbara Poetry Series, Saturday at 7 p.m. at Kerrwood Hall at Westmont College. The program includes Caitlyn Curran, Christine Penko, SK Rolle, together with the Westmont Chamber Singers under the direction of Grey Brothers.

Connect with SK Rolle on Facebook

Learn more about Santa Barbara's New Poet Laureate:
NPR interview

Funkzone Podcast.

and the tv

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