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Book 15: Homegirls & Handgrenades–Sonia Sanchez

Another book of poetry, another reminder of how difficult poetry is (can be) to fully grasp. I feel like to truly appreciate Sonia Sanchez I need to read this in a class with someone facilitating a discussion; someone who knows more about her, knows how to interpret her stylizations. I never could figure out what to do with the forward slash “/” separating words, especially “yo” and another word (i.e., “yo/arena of love”). Is it supposed to be read a certain way? Is there a double meaning I’m missing? I just have questions. And then, like Nikki Giovanni, some of the metaphors were so time and place situated, they went over my head. But in the anthology I have of Giovanni’s work, there’s an appendix with notes explaining the references.

That being said, I enjoyed this book, preferring the haikus and shorter-stories more than some of the longer poems, probably because they were easier for me to understand, but I’ll have to revisit Sanchez, hopefully with some more context.

Haiku

i see you blackboy
bent toward destruction watching
for death with tight eyes

 

From a Black Feminist Conference
Reflections on Margaret Walker: Poet

chicago/october 1977/saturday afternoon/margaret walker walks
her red clay mississippi walk into a room of feminists. a strong gust
of a woman. raining warm honeysuckle kisses and smiles. and i
fold myself into her and hear a primordial black song sailing down
the guinea coast.

her face. ordained with lines. confesses poems. halleluyas. choruses.
she turns leans her crane-like neck on the edge of the world,
emphasizing us. in this hotel/village/room. heavy with women.
our names become known to us.

there is an echo about her. of black people rhyming. of a woman
celebrating herself and a people. words ripen on her mouth like
pomegranates. this pecan/color/woman. short limbed with light-
ning. and i swallow her whole as she pulls herself up from youth,
shaking off those early chicago years where she and wright and
others turned a chicago desert into a wellspring of words.

eyes. brilliant/southern eyes torpedoing the room with sun.
eyes/dressed like a woman. seeing thru riddles. offering asylum
from ghosts.

she stands over centuries as she talks. hands on waist. a feminine
memory washed up from another shore. she opens her coat. a light
colored blouse dances against dark breasts. her words carved from
ancestral widows rain children and the room contracts with color.

her voice turns the afternoon brown. this black woman poet.
removing false veils, baptizes us with syllables. woman words.
entering and leaving at will:

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a bloody
peace be written in the sky. Let a second generation full of
courage issue forth; let a people loving freedom come to growth.
Let a beauty full of healing and a strength of final clenching
be the pulsing in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial
songs be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men
now rise and take control.*

walking back to my room, i listen to the afternoon. play it again
and again. scatter myself over evening walls and passageways wet
with her footprints. in my room i collect papers. breasts. and listen
to our mothers hummmmming

*”For My People” by Margaret Walker

 

Sonia Sanchez is the author of sixteen books, has lectured at over 500 universities and colleges, and read her poetry all over the world. She received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1984, the year Homegirls & Handgrenades was published. This work won the 1985 American Book award.

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