Language and Literature in the African American Imagination

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

3
Refusing to Be Boxed In:
Sonia Sanchez's Transformation of
the Haiku Form

Frenzella Elaine De Lancey

It isn't after all, whether a black poet uses traditional Western poetic devices or not. The essential question is how does he do it? How does he make them his own, make them work for him in the same sense that black people generally, writers especially, have made an oppression language--English--work for them. Ultimately, the history of the black liberation in America may be equated with the progress of linguistic manumission.

Alvin Aubert, Review: Sonia Sanchez Black Academy Review (Winter 1970)

One of the few titled haiku written by Sonia Sanchez, "Walking in the rain in Guyana" is an excellent example of both the poet's artistic vision and artistry:

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

(46)

Elements consistent with definitions of classical Japanese haiku as a lyric verse form in three unrhymed lines, with a 5-7-5 syllable count are evident, so, too, is the requisite emphasis on external nature. The clarifying title tells us that this haiku derives from a walk in the rain in Guyana and announces the poet's intention to "localize" the haiku in a particular manner. Sanchez uses Afrocentric motifs to textualize the haiku, making it not some universal statement about rain and tree but a particular experience, filtered through the poet's consciousness. Though Guyana is located in South America, African people are among its inhab-

-21-

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