Terebess Asia Online (TAO)


Haiku by Sonia Sanchez (1934-)

The Haiku For Me Is

Silence. crystals. cornbread
and greens laughter. brocades.
The sea. Beethoven. Coltrane.
Spring and winter. blue rivers.
Dreadlocks. blues. a waterfall.
Empty mountains. bamboo. bodegas.
Ancient generals. dreams. lamps.
Sarah Vaughn. Her voice exploding
in the universe, returning to earth
in prayer. Plum blossoms.
Silk and steel. Cante jondo
Wine. hills. flesh. perfume.
A breath inhaled and held.




Come windless invader
I am a carnival of
Stars a poem of blood.

I have caught fire from
Your mouth now you want me to
Swallow the ocean.

When we say good-bye
I want yo tongue inside my
Mouth dancing hello.

Mixed with day and sun
I crouched in the earth carry
You like a dark river.

You too slippery
For me. Can't hold you long or
Hard. Not enough nites.

Am I yo philly
Outpost? Man when you sail in
To my house, you docked.

This is not a fire
Sale but I am in heat
Each time I see ya.

I am who I am.
Nothing hidden just black silk
Above two knees.

I am you loving
My own shadow watching
This noontime butterfly.

Is there a fo rent
Sign on my butt? You got no
Territorial rights here.

My face is a scarred
Reminder of your easy
Comings and goings.

Derelict with eyes
I settle in a quiet
Carnival of waves.

I want to make you
Roar with laughter as I ride
You into morning.

I have carved you face
On my tongue and I speak you
In my off-key voice.

the I in you the
you in me colliding in
one drop of semen

legs wrapped around you
camera. action. Tightshot.
This is not a rerun.


What I want
From you can
You give me? What
I give to
You do you
Hey? Hey?

love between us is
speech and breath. Loving you is
a long river running.



Haiku [question from a young sister]


what's wrong with being
freaky on stage you a stone
freak in yo own skin.


at least we up front
about this freakdom. at least
we let it all hang out.



Walking in the rain in Guyana

watusi like trees
holding the day like green um/
brella catching rain.




to worship
until i
become stone
to love
until i
become bone.



what is done is done
what is not done is not done
let it go [ldots] like the wind.

let us be one with
the earth expelling anger
spirit unbroken.

you are rock garden
austere in your loving
in exile from touch.

mixed with day and sun
i crouched in the earth carry
you like a dark river.

Sonia Sanchez. Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998. 133 pp.



To be born
To die Each journey
a sudden wave



Sonia Sanchez is considered by many to be the leading female voice of the Black Revolution. Her poetry contains a visionary quality and a strong sense of the past. She typically presents positive role models and often harshly realistic situations in an effort to inspire her readers to improve their lives. Regina B. Jennings says. "Creating a protective matriarchal persona, she has through versification, plays, and children's books inscribed the humanity of black people."

Biographical Information
Sanchez was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 9, 1934, to Wilson and Lena Driver. Her mother died when Sanchez was only one year old, and she spent the next eight years with various relatives. At the age of nine she moved with her father and stepmother to New York City. Sanchez began writing poetry as a child to battle the alienation and loneliness she felt as a shy stutterer, which she did not overcome until she was 16. Although not spoken in their home, Sanchez consciously learned the black dialect spoken on the streets. She would later base the rhythm of her poetry on the rhythm of this speech. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College in 1955, then studied with poet Louise Bogan at New York University. Bogan was an important influence on Sanchez's poetry, especially with regard to her use of traditional structures and form. After completing her graduate work at NYU, Sanchez taught at several colleges, including San Francisco State, the University of Pittsburgh, Rutgers University, Manhattan Community College, Amherst College, and Temple University. She co-founded the Black Studies Program at San Francisco State and was the first to develop and teach a course on black women in literature. Sanchez has also travelled extensively, including a trip to China, where she wrote many of the haikus in her collection Love Poems (1973).

Major Works
Sanchez's first collection of poetry, Homecoming (1969), focuses on embracing black identity. The poems in We a People (1970) have a political thrust and show the influence of jazz in Sanchez's work in the improvisation of the rhythm and in the attempt to imitate the sounds of different instruments. While Homecoming and We a BaddDDD Peoplehave urban landscapes, however, Sanchez began to use natural landscapes in Love Poems, but not the idyllic presentation usually found in poetry. Her poetry became much more lyrical in this volume and focuses on love, loss, and relationships. A Blues Book for Blue Black Magic Women (1973) relies on history as a liberating device. The poet acts as guide and teacher and urges readers to embrace their blackness and turn away from the falsity of Western values. The poems in this volume are very ritualistic and religious. Sanchez's I've Been a Woman(1978) follows the journey of one woman as she comes into being as a woman and as a human being. The poems in this collection speak to and for women and provide a more personal look at the themes which have consumed her work thus far, including oppression, exploitation, and loss.Homegirls & handgrenades (1984) is an autobiographical collection, in which the poet acts as a character in the work. In this volume, Sanchez employs techniques similar to those used by Jean Toomer in Cane, including the use of narration, dialogue, and poetry to create sketches. In addition to her poetry, Sanchez has also written several plays. Sister Son/ji (1969) presents five periods in the life of a black revolutionary shown through flashbacks. Son/ji moves from a first act of resisting racism, to a sense of betrayal by the male revolutionaries who abandon women, and finally to a maturity arising out of loss and survival.

Critical Reception
Some critics accuse Sanchez of repetition and a lack of originality in her work because many of her themes reappear numerous times. Others praise the continuity this repetition brings to the body of her work. Andrew Salkey says, "Altogether, the iron truthfulness in her work emerges out of her deep need to thwart existential gloom, to support her embattled self-esteem, and to renew her faith in herself in order to keep on keeping on." Some reviewers criticize Sanchez for falling into sixties rhetoric in We a BaddDDD People. Many critics preferred her more personal poems to her politically oriented ones, which they found shrill and harsh. Several critics praise Sanchez for her use of traditional forms and her ability to make them her own. David Williams says, "The haiku in her hands is the ultimate in activist poetry, as abrupt and as final as a fist." Many critics have noted that Sanchez has failed to garner much attention for her accomplishments as a vital member of the Black Revolutionary Movement. Kamili Anderson asserts, "Relative to her merits as both prolific poet … and social activist, widespread critical acknowledgment of Sanchez's talents has been remiss."