Poet Sonia Sanchez at Woodstock Writers Festival

(At this year’s Woodstock Writers Festival Gretchen Primack will teach a workshop on Friday, April 20th and lead a panel discussion on Saturday, April 21st. Tickets are selling fast, so don’t hesitate. Here’s an introduction to Sonia Sanchez who will appear on the panel.)

On Sonia Sanchez, By Gretchen Primack

At the recent Split This Rock poetry festival in D.C., Sonia Sanchez gave a reading and led a discussion, and there was a workshop devoted to her work. It may not surprise you, then, to learn that Split This Rock is a festival dedicated to poetry as a tool for social change, poetry as a progressive act. Sonia is in her seventies now and has earned the right to sit back and think proudly of what she’s done to raise consciousness through her work, but she’s hardly sitting down, much less back. She’s still in the thick of it, as we’ll see on Saturday, April 21st.

In 1999, Beacon Press published a new and selected volume of Sonia’s poems called Shake Loose My Skin. My friend Eulalia gave it to me as a present, and in her inscription she wrote, “Some kids read to escape. When I was little I learned to love reading in order to survive.” Sonia has helped many women like Eulalia, who grew up in the projects of Philly and found a haven and a voice through Sonia’s work. She’s helped untold numbers of people from all backgrounds through her decades of teaching and her writing alike. Here is an almost unspeakably beautiful poem of Sonia’s, an anthem for Eulalia and a huge inspiration for me. Look especially as how she uses line break as disorientation here.

On Seeing a Pacifist Burn

this day is not
real. the crowing of
the far-away
carillons ring
out direction
less. even you are
un real roasting
under a man
hattan sky
while passersby flap
their indecent tongues.
even I am un
real but i
am black and
thought to be
without meaning.

Reprinted from Shake Loose My Skin, Beacon Press, 2000

* * * * * * * * * *

The Hudson Valley Poetry Blog is produced by Will Nixon, author of My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse and Love in the City of Grudges.

This entry was posted in Poems and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.