The Power Plays of Sonia Sanchez
Known for her work as a major poet, teacher, and champion of and for
black culture, Sonia Sanchez is regarded worldwide as a living legend, a
revered female writer of the black community. This reception is signifi-
cant in both political and literary domains because, as Joyce Ann Joyce
observes in Ijala, Sanchez’s literary project evinces African tradition
where “griots/poets, functioning as guides, teachers, and historians for
their respective cultures, embrace their people” (12). Sanchez herself
characterizes the African American poet as “a creator of social values,”
claiming that “the most fundamental truth to be told in any art form,
as far as Blacks are concerned, is that America is killing us. But we con-
tinue to live and love and struggle and win” (“Ruminations,” 16).1 She
explains her own artistic pursuits as drawing on “any experience or
image to clarify and magnify this truth for those who must ultimately
be about changing the world. . . . The more I learn, the clearer my view
of the world becomes. To gain that clarity . . . I had to wash my ego in
the needs/aspiration of my people” (“Ruminations,” 16, 17). Sanchez
has throughout her career attempted both to engage her audience and
to examine a writer’s responsibilities. In the process, she has become
an acclaimed poet/dramatist and civil rights activist, receiving numer-
ous national awards. She has published over sixteen books of poetry,
five plays, and several pieces of fiction. Among her most acclaimed
poetry collections are Homecoming (1969), We a BaddDDD People (1970),
Homegirls and Handgrenades (1984), Under a Soprano Sky (1987), Does Your
House Have Lions? (1997), and Shake Loose My Skin (1999).2 An editor of
two anthologies, We Be Word Sorcerers (1973) and Three Hundred and Sixty
Degrees of Blackness Coming at You (1973), Sanchez has also lectured in
more than five hundred venues around the world. For her poetry, she
has received, among others, the American Book Award, the Robert
Frost Medal, and the Patricia Lucretia Mott Award.3
Numerous critical discussions have examined how through her
poetry collections Sanchez has for over three decades successfully
created a forceful artistic stance.4 However, criticism has not stressed
enough that Sanchez has done the same in her dramatic works, which
are also poetic and, at least in part, vehicles for poetry. Incorporating
Introduction:
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