Language and Literature in the African American Imagination

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

9
The Blue/Black Poetics
of Sonia Sanchez

Regina B. Jennings

As a poet, Sonia Sanchez has evolved since her first book Homecoming published in 1969 during the heart of the Black Power Movement. Back then her poetics included a strident tropology that displayed a matriarchal protection of black people. Today, after publishing twelve books of poetry, including the acclaimed Homegirls and Handgrenades and Under a Soprano Sky, one can still discover poetic conventions developed during the Black Arts Movement. The purpose of this artistic movement involved challenging the Eurocentric hegemony in art by developing a new aesthetic that represented the ethos, pathos, and expression of African Americans. These neo-renaissance artists were inspired by the rhetorical eloquence and activism of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. From this era of intense political activism, artists such as Sonia Sanchez wrote poems illustrating a resistance to inequality best described in "Black Art" by Imamu Amiri Baraka ( 1969).

It is obvious that revolutionary fervor characterized some of Sanchez's work, but it is essential for understanding her poetics, as well as the neo-aesthetic of the sixties, to recognize that anarchy was not the goal. These poets considered themselves to be word soldiers for black people, defending their right to have equality, honor, and glory. In each of Sanchez's volumes of poetry, for example, one finds the artist handling themes that include love, harmony, race unification, myth, and history. Her poetic personas are diverse, incorporating themes from China, to Nicaragua, to Africa. Yet, there is a pattern in her figurative language that blends an African connection. In this article, I shall examine the Afrocentric tropes that embody Sanchez's poetics. To use Afrocentricity in this regard is to examine aspects of traditional African culture not limited by geography in Sanchez's work. A body of theory that argues such an African commonality is in Kariamu Welsh The Concept ofNzuri: Towards Defining an Afrocentric Aesthetic.

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