I'd like to think that I'm a good poet. I believe that about myself because of the reaction of my audiences and from the derision of my fellow poets who are present, during those readings. I've caused macho men to cry. I've caused women to get "moist". I married a woman that I sent my first book of poetry to because she was reluctant to be in my presence. Only after she read my words was she willing to meet me face to face. We were together from the first day we met. After we married, she stopped me from performing in public for about 10 years for fear that some other woman might be as impressed by my poetry and steal me away from her!
Those testaments mean more to me than book sales or public accolades. Fortunately I have a good job and I'm a just a little (!) narcissistic.
I started writing poetry when I was a teenager. During that time, Black America was undergoing a cultural/political revolution. The arts - writing, dance, theatre, music - was as much a part of the "revolutionary consiousness" of Black Americans as was self defense and politics. Theatres, book stores and writing workshops sprang up all over inner cities. Here in Detroit, we had the Ibo Cultural Center for Jazz on Saturday night and Broadside Press for poetry on Sunday afternoon. Some of the greatest writers in the country came to Detroit regularly to pay homage to Dudley Randall and Broadside Press. My only regret is: all that occurred before the digital age for today all I have is my failing memories of those monumental events.
The work of one poet -Sania Sanchez - has been ingrained in my head, all these years. I've made an effort to be in attendance whenever she was in town.
Professor Sanchez was here this past week lecturing and reading her poetry at the Charles H Wright Museum of African American History. I attended a lunch time performance that was largely attended by middle school children and we dinosaurs who have cherished her work for decades. As she spoke, I found myself blurting out "SAY IT" as an affirmation of her words. As she read her poetry, I wept. Listening to her words was tantamount to a religious experience in church for me. I stifled the urge to jump up and down and shout "HALLELUJAH" for fear of being removed from the room. Sonia Sanchez is the Priestess of the Spoken Word.
Professor Sonia Sanchez is one of the greatest living poets in American. If she visits your city make an effort to see her. You will be moved.