Friday, September 13, 2013

Sojourner Kincaid Rolle in the Poetry Zone

Melinda Palacio
Sojourner Kincaid Rolle

I first met Sojourner Kincaid Rolle in 2003. We were both part of Dramatic Women's Santa Barbara Blues, a series of short plays. She was the playwright and director for "The Gift"; I was an actress, working with Leo Cabranes-Grant on his piece, "La Barda," where I played a Mexican bar maid. What I recall about first meeting Sojourner was her ability to be omnipresent in the town I had recently moved to. She was a journalist, a playwright, a teacher, a former bowler, and much more. I thought to myself, I want to be like her. Sojourner's energy is inspiring. 

Little did I know, my mentorship and friendship with Sojourner would continue to this day. She is a very giving person. She says, yes, when others say, I don't have time. Sojourner read one of my first scribblings and noticed the hurt and anger in the piece. She taught me how to harness the energy in my writing while letting go of the melodrama. Four years later, when Sojourner asked me to read with her at the Carpinteria Arts Center, I wondered why she would want to share the feature with me. She frankly answered, I enjoy helping new poets. I, again, was moved by her generosity and again thought, I want to be like Sojourner. Since then, Sojourner and I have collaborated on many poetry events in Santa Barbara and she is working on getting to New Orleans. This Saturday, September 14, Sojourner hosts the Poetry Zone and I have the pleasure of reading poetry, along with Geoffrey Jacques, at the new Granada Bookstore on State Street at 4pm. It's been a fun filled week in poetry and if you missed last week's Bluebird Series, here's a photographer's recap.

La Bloga asked Sojourner Kincaid Rolle a few questions.

Melinda Ann Palacio:
How long have you been running the Poetry Zone and how is the event different at the new Granada Book Store? What do you like or think can be improved at the new venue? What have been some surprises in the Poetry Zone?

Sojourner Kincaid Rolle:
I started hosting the Poetry Zone earlier this year in March.  It still has the same format as it had at its previous venues - mostly recently the Karpeles Manuscript Library.  We generally have two featured readers and an open mic.  Except when we don’t.  For instance in April,  the Sunday Poets group was featured and that was five poets.  In August, we had three featured readers when former California State Poet Laureate Al Young joined  featured poets Glenna Luschei and Jackson Wheeler as their special guest. We love our new home at the Granada Books.  The staff is supportive of poetry and of the Poetry Zone.  Poetry books have their own special place in the store.  Santa Barbara’s current Poet Laureate Chryss Yost and her four predecessors were invited to write poems for the bookstore’s grand opening.  Their poems are prominently displayed  throughout the store.  

You have been considered the people's poet of Santa Barbara. How did you acquire this moniker and who first coined it? What do you most love about the Santa Barbara community and what, if anything, do you wish you could change?

People’s Poet, Poetry Advocate, Public Poet.   Santa Barbara has an official poet laureate.  There have been five named so far, each of them are poets that I respect and consider as friends.  I have been an advocate for poetry in the public arena for many years now - since the late 80’s.  I hosted a monthly poetry reading through the SB Parks and Recreation Dept. - Poet’s Night - for nine years,  a monthly reading at Reds Coffee House for one year and now I’ve taken on the Poetry Zone.  The Poetry Zone has a long history in SB, having been started by the late Walt Hopmans and kept going by Ginny Mariposa and more recently, Suzanne Frost.
When Suzanne was looking for a host to take over, I stepped up because I felt I wanted to keep the “Zone” alive.  It was just serendipity that the new bookstore was opening and was amenable to giving us a new home at at new time.  

Did you always see yourself moving in all these different directions and taking on so many roles?

I’ve been traveling simultaneously on different paths for many years.  I used to consider myself Joy of all Trade and Master of none.  I have worked to try and become competent in several areas.  I feel that no matter which path I’m on, I’m headed in the same direction and a similar end in mind.  I often think of Shelley’s declaration that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.  In some cultures, poets are appreciated as both culture-bearers and public philosophers.  It is not uncommon for poets to hold public office or ministerial positions.  I also see a correlation between being a mediator in conflict situations and working through ideas in a poem to some mediated outcome.  The idea of versification itself has it roots in the latin word for “the middle” or “the furrow”.  So I don’t really feel so much divergence in what I do in the world. “to seek peace for me to seek peace for you”.   

MAP: Is there anything else you'd like to tell La Bloga?

SKR: Join the Poetry Zone group on

Sojourner Kincaid Rolle is the author of six plays and seven books of poetry including her most recent, Black Street (Center for Black Studies Research, 2009), and Common Ancestry (Mille Grazie, 1999). Her arts reviews and commentaries have appeared in local and regional publications. She is a former advisory editor for
Sage Trail Poetry Magazine. Rolle has given readings of her work, appeared on panels, lectured, and conducted workshops for many years at universities, libraries, retreats, symposia, and festivals. As a speaker and workshop leader, she has been invited to numerous gatherings of writers including California Poets In the Schools annual conference and the Santa Barbara Women’s Literary Festival (2004,2010). She inspires young people to write about their surroundings through her Song of Place Poetry Project, and has been writer-in-residence with the teen theater program, City at Peace, since its inception (1996). 

"Like" Sojourner's "Author Page"  on Facebook.

Upcoming Schedule for the Poetry Zone at Granada Books, 1224 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, 805-845-1818

September 14    Melinda Palacio and Geoffrey Jacques

October     12      Michael Hannon and Paul Portugues

November 9 Lynne Thompson

Special Event
September 28:  100 Thousand Poets for Change- Santa Barbara featuring Ken Williams, Perie, Longo, Mary Kathleen Johnston, Chella Courington, Michele Detorie, Amy Boutell and others.  Co-Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.  Time and Place:TBA

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