Thursday, April 11, 2013

Poem: Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez
(courtesy of
Earlier this semester, as part of my undergraduate literature class on The Black Arts Movement, I taught a number of poems by Sonia Sanchez (1934-), about whom I've written on here before, and among the many that moved me again, after having not looked at them in many years, was this one, "blues," from the landmark Black Fire anthology that LeRoi Jones and Larry Neal edited in 1968. In it Sanchez demonstrates the gifts that have made her one of the most important poets of that group as well as major poet today; the skillful handling in manner almost so subtle as to seem effortless of poetic music and rhythm, her grasp of irony and humor, the ability to shift registers, and the ability to make the personal resonate beyond herself. Likeher sister poets in the Black Arts Movement she made the male "warriors" did not forget there would be no revolution--or any of them--without women, and she often did so, as critic and poet Cherise Pollard points out in a wonderful article on the Black Arts Movement, with a deft, subversive hand and eye. The poem opens with a statement of real blues, and by the end, as the blues often do, has turned those challenges, that pain, inside out. As she was turned (inside) out, bringing out another aspect of the blues. Several students have called her poetry a revelation. I feel the same way about her. Great in so many ways.


in the night
in the half hour
negro dreams
i hear voices knocking at the door
i see walls dripping screams up
and down the halls.
                 won't someone open
the door for me? won't some
one schedule my sleep
and don't ask no questions?
      like when he took me to his
home away from home place
and i died the long sought after
death he'd planned for me.
                        (yeah. bessie
he put in the bacon and it overflowed
                                  the pot)
and two days later
when i was talking
i started to grin.
as everyone knows
i'm still grinning.

Copyright © Sonia Sanchez, from Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing. Edited by LeRoi Jones and Larry Neal. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc. 1968.

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