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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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“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.



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 (1999) /  Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems (1998) 

 Does Your House Have Lions? (1995) / Wounded in the House of a Friend (1995)  /  Under a Soprano Sky (1987) / Homegirls & Handgrenades (1984)

I've Been a Woman: New and Selected Poems (1978) /   A Blues Book for Black Magical Women (1973) / We a BaddDDD People (1970)

 Homecoming (1969)  / A Sound Investment and Other Stories (1979)   /    The Adventure of Fat Head, Small Head, 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) 

 Living At The Epicenter (Morse Poetry Prize) (1995)

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Marvin X Reviews 

Wounded in the House of a Friend

Poems 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 transcending.

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 soon.

. . . 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:

Do they have children?

One does.

Are they married?

One is.

They're like you then.


How old are they?

Thirty-two, thirty-three, thirty-four.

What do they do?

An accountant and two lawyers.

They're like you then.


Do they make better love than I do?

I'm not answering that.

Where did you meet?

When I traveled on the job.

Did you make love in hotels?


Did you go out together?


To bars? To movies? To restaurants?


Did you make love to them all nite?


And then got up to do your company work?


And you fall asleep on me right after dinner. After walking the dog.


Did you buy them things?


Did you talk on the phone with them every day?


Do you tell them how unhappy you are with me and the children?


Do you love them? Did you say that you loved them while making love?

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:

Can I pull my bones

Together while skeletons

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 pure poetry:

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 healing.

23 December 2003

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Poet, Activist, Sonia Sanchez Reading Toni Cade Bambara

Sonia Sanchez: Shake Loose Memories  / Sonia Sanchez speaks about Shake Loose Memories

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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.

I'm reading the biography—the only biography—of John Oliver Killens [John 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 mail yesterday Nairobi Heat, a detective novel by Mukoma wa Ngugi, Ngugi's son, that I can't wait to start reading.

And I'm 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 

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

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.     

Professor Perry 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 Caucasian babies.

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 indiscriminately.

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: 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 his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of 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, “globalized” entity.

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.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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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 Slavery

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Home   Marvin X Table 

Related files: Sonia Sanchez: Poet & Educator  Sonia's Song  Sonia Sanchez and Ten Grandmothers  Wounded in the House of a Friend  (Marvin X Review)