Recap: The Power of Poetry—Express Yourself!

The Power of Poetry—Express Yourself!

By Justine Sutton

  • Presenter Melinda Palacio reading an excerpt from her book How Fire Is a Story.

Inspired by Amanda Gorman’s electrifying poem at Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ inauguration, AWC-SB’s March monthly meeting/presentation was on poetry—what it can teach us as communicators, and how it can infuse our work with new energy. Wednesday, March 3, members and guests gathered via Zoom for the meeting, always a good chance for connecting, networking, and learning!


In addition to our distinguished presenters, two former Santa Barbara Poet Laureates, Perie Longo and Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, honored us with their presence.


This month, the Member Spotlight featured Lisa Amador and her business, Amador Matchmaking. Lisa shared that while dating is always challenging, and during a pandemic even more so, she sees people at this time getting very focused about finding the right romantic partner. And she is happy to help!


Opening presenter Kundai Chikowero is a senior at Dos Pueblos High School and an activist addressing social justice, empowerment of underserved populations, and anti-racism. Kundai was awarded the Outstanding Youth Leader, City of Santa Barbara, in 2018 and has won the Martin Luther King Jr. Essay and Poetry competition six times. Born in Zimbabwe, Kundai grew up in Canada and California, her activism fueled by the Zimbabwean concept of Chimurenga, translating to “revolutionary uprising,” and she plans to study law in college. Kundai has two volumes of published poetry and has read her poems at numerous public events. 


Main presenter Melinda Palacio is a poet, author, and speaker who has lived in Santa Barbara for over 20 years. Her books of poetry and fiction, Folsom Lockdown, Ocotillo Dreams, and How Fire Is a Story, Waiting, have won multiple distinguished awards. Her latest poetry collection is Bird Forgiveness


“I started out as a journalist,” Melinda said. “But then I traded my press pass for poetic license.” She went on to explain that the 5 Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why) are still integral. “Poetry, through carefully chosen words, has the power to bring all 5 Ws to life.”


When asked if it was especially difficult to write Folsom Lockdown, inspired by visiting her estranged father in Folsom Prison, she pointed out that writing can be therapeutic, whether private or public expression. 


“When you speak your heart,” said Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Emerita Perie Longo, “You are speaking to a multitude of others.”


Melinda agreed and credited Perie and the SB Writer’s Conference with introducing her to poetry after she wrote Ocotillo Dreams, historical fiction. “I took one of her workshops,” she said. “And I haven’t stopped writing poetry since!”


Prior to the meeting, members and guests were invited to create a haiku describing themselves and/or what they do. 


According to Merriam Webster, “A haiku is an unrhymed Japanese poetic form that consists of 17 syllables arranged in three lines containing five, seven, and five syllables, respectively. A haiku expresses much and suggests more in the fewest possible words.”


In breakout rooms, attendees had the opportunity to share their haikus and discuss in small groups. Here is a sampling:


AWC-SB President, Lisa Osborn:

a versatile voice

messenger of ideas

learning, business, sales


AWC-SB Secretary, Lisa Danhi

Pen to paper, words

to heart, each letter a breath

mind soul now moment


AWC-SB Member, Julia McHugh Orlosky

Proof that a wiseass 

Can indeed make a living 

Chatting and writing


AWC-SB Member, Judith Smith-Meyer: 

Learning to slow down

Eager curiosity

Making room for new


By way of announcing an upcoming Earth Day Poetry Contest in partnership with the Wilding Museum, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Emerita Sojourner Kincaid Rolle shared her own poem, “Why Does Earth Day Matter?” Deadline for entries is Monday, March 22 and they will be judged by Sojourner.


Coming up:

Save the date for AWC-SB’s Women of Achievement Awards, Friday, April 30!

And don’t miss next month’s meeting, Wednesday, April 7, with a dynamic presentation by Santa Barbara’s favorite columnist, Starshine Roshell—Truth Decay: The Battle To Prevent Lies And Misinformation from Overwhelming Reality.


Justine Sutton graduated from UCSB and has adopted Santa Barbara as her hometown. She’s a freelance writer, certified in Weddings and Funerals as a Life-Cycle Celebrant® and is currently training as a voice actor.


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