Books by Marvin X
Love and War: Poems /
In the Crazy House Called America /
Woman: Man's Best Friend /
Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality
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Books by Sonia Sanchez
Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems
Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums:
Love Poems (1998)
Does Your House Have Lions?
Wounded in the House of a
Friend (1995) /
Under a Soprano Sky
& Handgrenades (1984)
a Woman: New and Selected Poems (1978)
A Blues Book for
Black Magical Women (1973) /
a BaddDDD People (1970)
A Sound Investment and Other
Stories (1979) /
The Adventure of Fat Head, Small
and Square Head (1973)
It's a New Day: Poems for
Young Brothas and Sistuhs (1971) /
We Be Word Sorcerers:
Twenty-five Stories by Black Americans (1973)
At The Epicenter (Morse Poetry Prize) (1995)
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Wounded in the House of a
by Sonia Sanchez
Beacon Press, 1995 / 94 pages
Sonia Sanchez is a poet to be heard and not
read: in the hearing is the reading, for she is in the oral
tradition, going back to the Nile River poets, the Congo River
poets and the West African griots, those walking encyclopedias who
carried in their heads the mythology and rituals of the entire
tribe or nation, such is Sonia. She is the priestess, the shaman
lady of the African American Nation. She qualifies because of real
life suffering, dancing down into the pit of hell to arise with
understanding to tell you all, if you can stand the low down dirty
truth, not the Miller Lite bs for the tender hearts, but stories
of pain and love and love and pain that lead to understanding and
Sometimes the poems are so strong even the poet
fears going there, down into the deep dark purple funk of their
lives, although we must, otherwise poetry has no meaning. Still,
we will often avoid my proverb, "Poets must study their
poems." Or maybe there comes a time when we have mastered
certain poems, certain myths/rituals.
I know every time I try to get Sonia to read
“Wounded In the House of A Friend,” she refuses, says she
ain't in the mood or anything to avoid going there. One night at
Baraka's house I thought she was going to read it with me, since
it is a dramatic dialogue poem for a male and female. When I
thought we were ready to read, she eased over to the piano and
accompanied me like she was Ornette Coleman. Now her piano playing
was absolutely beautiful, but she left me hanging, reading both
male and female parts. Being a dramatist myself, I didn't mind,
but I wanted so much for her to join me, just to hear her voice.
“Wounded In the House of a Friend” is a
most beautiful dramatic poem about the ungrateful male, or shall
we say simply, a poem about a male dog. Maybe that’s why I love
it so much and she hates it.
She hadn't found anything. I had been
careful. No lipstick. No matches from a well-known bar. No
letters. Cards. Confessing an undying love. Nothing tangible for
her to hold onto. But I knew she knew. It had been on her face, in
her eyes for the last nine days. It was the way she looked at me
sideways from across the restaurant table as she picked at her
brown rice sushi . . .
Sonia is describing not only the male dog, but
the transcendent artist who brings the rock of Sisyphus down on
herself . And perhaps the reason she refused to read with me was
because the woman in the mirror is so painful, even after
months/years of detachment.
Some poems are like that, too hot to handle
even years later.
Yeah. There was another woman. In fact there
were three women. In Florida, Californian, and North Carolina.
Places to replace her cool detachment of these last years. No sex
for months. Always tired or sick or off to some conference
designed to save the world from racism or extinction. If I had
jerked off one more time in bed while lying next to her it woulda
dropped off. Still I wondered how she knew.
There is a song by Ledisi called "Take
Time" that a friend had the singer autograph to me. Take time
for yourself, something the artist finds impossible to do, lost in
the world of imagination or saving the world from extinction,
although the world ain't going nowhere, only we are soon and very
. . . As I drove home from the party I asked
him what was wrong? What was bothering him? Were we okay? Would we
make love tonite? Would we ever make love again? Did my breath
stink? Was I too short? Too tall? Did I talk too much? Should I
wear lipstick? Should I cut my hair? Let it grow? What did he want
for dinner tomorrow nite? Was I driving too fast? Too slow? What
is wrong man? He said I was always exaggerating. Imagining things.
Always looking for trouble.
Here the perfect woman speaks, who does
everything to be perfect, firstly, for herself, but for her man
too, to no avail, because the devil has slipped into the game. And
so the drama of this poem begins, the drama of a life seemingly
impossible because we make it so with our negrocities (Baraka
term, and he should know). But it is a drama of truth, and as
Baldwin said the greatness of a poet is determined by the amount
of truth he/she is willing to reveal about her life and humanity.
Sonia goes there, there where no hiding place awaits the truth
seeker, or shall we say interrogator:
they have children?
like you then.
old are they?
do they do?
accountant and two lawyers.
like you then.
they make better love than I do?
not answering that.
did you meet?
I traveled on the job.
you make love in hotels?
you go out together?
bars? To movies? To restaurants?
you make love to them all nite?
then got up to do your company work?
you fall asleep on me right after dinner. After walking
you buy them things?
you talk on the phone with them every day?
you tell them how unhappy you are with me and the
you love them? Did you say that you loved them while
I'm not answering that.
So our poetess/dramatist is describing classic
high class Negro love—of course the low down ignut Negroes have
a different dialogue, are not so diplomatic, civil. But thanks
Sonia for showing us sick, high class black love.
And now we get to the insanity of it all:
I pull my bones
Come out of my head.
What an image of mental terror, the stress and
strain of not going stark raving mad, as Baldwin wondered why not.
With these lines, Sonia moves from dramatist to poet. Those not
working in both genres think there is a confusion of form.
But in the mind of the poet/dramatist there is an easy flow
between forms, actually an integration and synthesis, in other
words, no problem. How else can she address the
pain and terror, sitting upright and proper, oh no buddy,
ain't that kinna party.
This is an any means necessary kind of drama, moving into
I am preparing for him to come home. I have
exercised. Soaked in the tub. Scrubbed my body. Oiled myself down.
What a beautiful day it's been. Warmer than usual. The cherry
blossoms on the drive are blooming prematurely. The hibiscus are
giving off a scent
Around the house. I have gotten drunk off
the smell. So delicate. So sweet. So loving. I have been sleeping, no daydreaming all
day. Lounging inside my head. I am walking up this hill. The day
is green. All green. even the sky. I start to run down the hill
and I take wing and begin to fly and the currents turn me upside
down and I become young again child like again ready to
participate in all children's games.
The above lines take us to the Biblical Song of
Solomon, the vibe, the mood, the tension,
is almost identical, the imagery and metaphors. Awaiting
her lover, drunk from the very idea of him, preparing herself for
his embrace. She sees him coming and flies into his arms, woman
like, but childlike with ecstasy, gazelle like. This is the best
Sonia gets. I am not going to discuss the other poems in this
collection, Wounded In the House of A Friend. This is the
masterpiece. Perhaps this is why she is afraid to read it with me.
It is great love and great pain. So read the book. She is a poet
of love, the love of love, the pain of love, the joy of love, the
hate of love, the wonder of love, the lost of love. And then she
is the priestess who will shout, scream, wail, chant, sing, moan
and cry with you.
Hear her, read her and get a
* * * *
Sonia Sanchez: Shake Loose Memories /
Sonia Sanchez speaks about Shake Loose Memories
* * * *
Sonia Sanchez on the State of Black Books—
I'm usually reading five or six different
books at a time. I'm reading Dreams
in a Time of War by Ngugi wa Thiong'o. I
remember when Ngugi was writing this book
because I was writing the first part of my
memoir at the same time. The joy of this memoir
is simply that he talks about his views as a boy
during World War II. So we get a wonderful sense
of who he is as a young man.
the biography—the only biography—of John Oliver
Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary
Activism by Keith Gilyard], a great
novelist who died too early, too young. I make
sure all of my students read him. I'm also
reading Isabel Allende's new book, The
Island Beneath the Sea (La isla bajo el
mar). I just love Isabel and what she writes and
the musicality of her work. I just got in the
Nairobi Heat, a detective novel by
Mukoma wa Ngugi, Ngugi's son, that I can't wait
to start reading.
reading the manuscript for this new anthology on
rap, so I'm immersing myself in Chuck D, Rakim
and Talib Kweli. I'm so happy this book is
happening and that they asked me to write a
blurb for it because they said I was one of the
older people who support young rappers. And I
do. I get up in the morning now and I play
Rakim's "Casualties of War" to remind myself
about the dead bodies that come home every day
because of the two wars we are involved in.—TheRoot
* * *
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus
By Charles C. Mann
a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous
New Revelations of the Americas Before
Columbus, in which he
provides a sweeping and provocative
examination of North and South America
prior to the arrival of Christopher
Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched
but so wonderfully written that it’s
anything but exhausting to read. With
1493, Mann has taken it to a
new, truly global level. Building on the
groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby
The Columbian Exchange and, I’m
proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer),
Mann has written nothing less than the
story of our world: how a planet of what
were once several autonomous continents
is quickly becoming a single,
Mann not only talked to countless
scientists and researchers; he visited
the places he writes about, and as a
consequence, the book has a marvelously
wide-ranging yet personal feel as we
follow Mann from one far-flung corner of
the world to the next. And always, the
prose is masterful. In telling the
improbable story of how Spanish and
Chinese cultures collided in the
Philippines in the sixteenth century, he
takes us to the island of Mindoro whose
“southern coast consists of a number of
small bays, one next to another like
tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how
the spread of malaria, the potato,
tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar
cane have disrupted and convulsed the
planet and will continue to do so until
we are finally living on one integrated
or at least close-to-integrated Earth.
Whether or not the human instigators of
all this remarkable change will survive
the process they helped to initiate more
than five hundred years ago remains,
Mann suggests in this monumental and
revelatory book, an open question.
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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