Sonia Sanchez is best known for her strong stance on race and gender; this is the heart of her poetry. Sanchez explores her identity as an African American woman through a separatist lens. Influenced by the movement of Malcolm X, she focuses on what sets her race apart and embraces that. Her poetry proudly establishes black identity through an assessment of its present, past, and future state. With previous works such asI’ve been a Woman: New and Selected Poems(1978) andA Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women(1973) It becomes clear that Sonia Sanchez writes for African American females.
This is what probably struck me aboutWounded in the House of a Friend(1995),unlike Sanchez’s previous works, the title in itself speaks to anyone. It suggests a powerful image of universal pain, one which is clearly readable regardless of race and gender. Yet, oddly enough, this title is somewhat contradicted by the actual content of the book. Overall, Sanchez’s poetry seemed to distance itself from the white/male reader, often only speaking to its target audience (black women). This may have possibly been Sanchez’s desired effect. Considering her signature ‘separatist’ style, she at times uses language and voice to alienate the Caucasian/male reader rather than inviting them in.
The first poem (also entitled) ‘Wounded in the House of a Friend’ offered me a clear image of pain. Initially, this poem invited me in, allowing me to immerse myself in the emotion. It was set up as a series of internal, private, monologues between husband and wife, the narrative taking its course as the husband admits to infidelity. Structurally, this offered me a connection to the writing, as I experienced the uninhibited emotions of these characters, projected through Sanchez’s exploration of ‘natural’ voice. The voice, as the mind, often becomes rich in caesura, revealing its broken and damaged state. For example, the husband’s tone slowly becomes more mechanical, conveying his further distancing from his wife. I was able to feel the husband’s estrangement with lines such as:
(Orlando. Miami. Late Check-In. Rush. Limited Liability.) That’s why you missed me at the airport. Hotel. Bus stop.
Sanchez further illustrates his separation from his wife, employing redundant references to transportation as a metaphor for his constant state of departure. I found myself feeling very sympathetic towards the wife, her language exposes her desperation as she expresses her need to gather what she can from her husband:
I shall gather up his moans, words, outbursts, wrap them in blue tissue paper; get to know them; watch them grow in importance.
Yet, the last few lines suddenly broke any bonds that I’d formed with the writing, alienating me through their somewhat undecipherable meaning:
ISHALLBECOMETHECOLLECTOROFME. AND PUT MEAT ON MY SOUL
Any connections that I had at the beginning of this extended poem were immediately broken because I could not understand these last lines and read them as the author’s personal cathartic outlet, one which was illegible and separate from me. I had to, yet again, distance myself.
This vacillation between immersing and distancing myself from the writing continued on throughout the rest of the poems. It was especially “A Love Song for Spellman” that had this mixed effect on me. Divided into six parts, this poem goes through a healing process for black identity, moving from the present to the past. ‘Spellman’ refers to a private college in the U.S, exclusively for black women. Hence, the title already identifies its target audience: it is a ‘love song’ for the black women who, in this day and age, are able to study at universities and are in the process of a ‘re-birth’. Sanchez identities this college as a milestone, signifying the movement for ‘a new beginning’. ‘Beginning’ is what this piece is all about, as is highly illustrated through Sanchez’s effective repetition of the words ‘we begin’; often leaving a pause/space after these words (emphasizing their resonance). Sanchez addresses the reader through the word ‘we’, generating strength through unity. Yet, ‘we’ is not aimed at Caucasians or males, it specifically addresses its target audience. The poem also uses repetition, creating a tone that is song-like and chanting, alluding to its African roots:
Our songs clotting our blood when we bled. Our songs sweet like eucalyptus against silence.
Our songs freezing and burning, moving out of corners. Remaking the air.
- Quote paper
- Francis Grin (Author), 2008, Review: Wounded in the House of a Friend by Sonia Sanchez, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/119984