Musically compelling, risky, original: yes. But the most salient characteristic of Sonia Sanchez's Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums
is passion. There's enough erotic exuberance in these poems to make even Cupid blush, starting with the opening salvo: "you held me so close / we were like the singing coming off drums. / you made me squeeze muscles / lean back on the sound / of corpuscles sliding in blood. I heard my thighs singing." The intensity of Sanchez's love poetry can leave us breathless. Yet she is very much the public poet as well as the private one. Her collection includes tributes to such icons as Ella Fitzgerald, Tupac Amaru Shakur, Toni Cade Bambara, Cornel West, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Sanchez also produces a portrait of an HIV-positive woman, which builds to an affirmative crescendo:
the universe knows that
hiv positive but I ammm
still. woman. lover. mother.
sistah. artist. organizer. activist.
At her best, Sanchez bridges gender, age and race, speaking in the closest we can expect to a universal language. We read the poems in Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums
and know exactly what she means. --Martha Silano
From Library Journal
This collection of privately and publicly addressed love poems is targeted, one would guess, at the Valentine's Day crowd. And, yes, these poems will fill the bill: one can imagine them being read in breathy sequence to an aroused and appreciative audience: "this is not a fire/ sale but I am in heat/ each time I see ya." Mostly adapted from Japanese forms like haiku and tanka, with a few longer poems addressed in homage to the late rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur, Cornel West, and others, they fail to showcase three of this poet's most potent strengths: economical storytelling; the ability to cut through to the heart of things with sharp-edged, nonsentimental descriptions of pain; and a concise and affecting use of rhyme. Occasionally, however, they do exhibit her gift for humor: "I wuz in Kansas/ dorothy and toto wuznt/ a jacuzzi, sky, you." While this selection may be a good gift choice for lovers who are not particularly interested in good verse, poetry lovers and librarians should check out some of Sanchez's earlier works, like the recently published Does Your House Have Lions? (LJ 4/15/97).?Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York
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