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Sojourner Kincaid Rolle Selected as Santa Barbara’s Next Poet Laureate

On April 7, the Santa Barbara City Council agenda includes approval of Sojourner Kincaid Rolle as Santa Barbara’s next poet laureate.

Sojourner Kincaid Rolle (Rod Rolle photo)

Rolle has been actively involved in the Santa Barbara literary community and literary arts for 30 years. She is recognized nationally as well as locally as a poet, editor and teacher and has received significant awards and honors.

She will be officially installed at the April 7 City Council meeting at City Hall. Rolle will serve in the role of the city’s poet laureate until April 2017.

This is a fitting occasion to take place in April, which has been designated a National Poetry Month by the Academy of American Poets and celebrated as such since 1996. The entire month will be filled with a myriad of readings and events throughout the city all celebrating poetry.

The City of Santa Barbara established a position of poet laureate in 2005 in order to direct proper attention and honor to the spoken word by utilizing poetry to celebrate and elevate community events. Since the establishment of the position the city has been remarkably fortunate of have five exceptional poets laureate emeriti — the late Barry Spacks, Perie Longo, David Starkey, Paul Willis and Chryss Yost. All have served to engage the community in greater appreciation for the spoken word, and have enhanced our experience of community events and celebrations through their poetry.

Mayor Helene Schneider had this to say about the 2015 poet laureate recommendation from the City Arts Advisory Committee: “I am so pleased that the city’s poet laureate program has been both popular and successful throughout the community these past 10 years, and I look forward to hearing our sixth poet laureate, Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, inspire us with her words on behalf of the City of Santa Barbara.”

Of her new role as poet laureate, Rolle states, “I feel so honored to be selected for the post of Santa Barbara poet laureate. It is gratifying to live in a community where poets and poetry are a respected part of the public milieu. Holding this position will allow me to do that which I love doing most: elevating poetry and poets to a place of prominence in our community. I am especially excited by the prospect of encouraging and nurturing young poets in their quest toward self-expression.”

Rolle is a poet, playwright, environmental educator and a peace activist. Her publications include Black Street (Center for Black Studies Research, 2009) and Common Ancestry (Millie Grazie Press, 1999). Her poems have appeared in California Quarterly, Coffee Press, Squaw Review and in the following anthologies: Corners of the Mouth: Celebrating 30 Years of the SLO Poetry Festival (2014), A Crow Black as the Sun (Green Poet Press, 2011), Rivertalk, The Geography of Home (Heyday Books, 1999), Poetry Zone I, II & III and the The Poetry of Peace (Capra Press). Her play, The Receptionist, was produced at Center Stage Theater (2008) and at California Lutheran University (2010).

Sojourner has engaged young poets through a variety of programs including her “Song of Place” Poetry Project; her work with City @ Peace; Speak for the Creeks; the Annual Young Writers Poetry Contest; and the Martin Luther King (MLK) Poetry and Essay Contest. In 2013, Lucky Penny Press published an e-book and an audio book showcasing her book of poems for young people titled The Mellow Yellow Global Umbrella. She hosts a monthly poetry event, The Poetry Zone, and for the past 13 years has organized an annual tribute to poetry icon Langston Hughes.

A brief reception with all city poets laureate will take place on Tuesday, April 7 in the mayor’s office prior to the start of the City Council meeting at 2 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall. For more information on the City Poet Laureate Program, contact the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission at 805.568.3992 or by clicking here.

— Lyn Semenza represents the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission.


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