Book 15: Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums by Sonia Sanchez

A return to poetry for me, and a very beautiful book of it at that.

I picked up this book at 2nd and Charles just before I graduated. It was falling apart, obviously turned down by the store for its condition and left there by an owner who didn’t want to carry it back home. I can’t imagine why they brought it, but I can say I’ve been that broke before. I once sold back three boxes worth of books to try and pay for a study abroad trip…. It didn’t work, and I undoubtedly miss those books.

I picked this book up, opened it, and saw that it was dedicated to Afeni and Tupac Shakur… I knew I was in for a pretty good book, and likely one that would have powerful themes.

I immediately noticed that Sanchez frequents the haiku form. I’m a fan of brief, simple poetry, and I appreciated how well she conveyed herself in seventeen syllables. Sanchez also writes in the form of tanka, and song. She also incorporates other poems without a definitive form. These poems are titled only as their respective form in most cases, though others are simply titled “song” or “sonku” and the like. I especially enjoy her blues haikus. Adapting the form to better fit her goal was admirable, and it read organically.

Jenny Sadre-Orafai, one of my favorite professors, always encouraged us to stray from writing love poems unless they were unique. They’re overdone and often cliche. I was leery about picking up this book, but I wanted to see if Sanchez could write a book full of love poems without the cliches. I was surprised by her writing, and though many of the poems were love poems in the traditional sense, many were classified as such in a more empowering way. Sanchez writes poems that discuss love in the romantic and physical sense, but also in a way that encourages interpersonal support, self-love, and much more.

I’d never had any experience with her writing before, so I’m glad that I took a chance on it. After finding out that she is a poet as well as a scholar/activist, I was excited to find that she’s from Alabama. Southern activism and southern writing are two of my favorite things, especially when they go against the grain.

Here’s my stance on sex poems; write them. Write them and don’t be sorry.

Sanchez writes poems dedicated to the likes of Cornel West, Ella Fitzgerald, Toni Cade Bambara, and more in her final section, In This Wet Season. I quite enjoyed the lengths of these poems, as they flowed the span of pages versus the earlier brief forms. Sanchez’s writing has many dimensions, and I appreciated them all.

My favorite Tanka from the book:
“men who watch in the
night see me coming and yell
the leper comes the
leper comes who will feed her
she without friend or lover.”
-Sonia Sanchez

I give this book a 9/10.

Like the Singing Coming off the Drums: Love Poems (Bluestreak)

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