Go to New York State Writers Institute

Sonia Sanchez & Saul Williams

February 11, 2000 (Friday)
7:00 p.m.

Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue
UAlbany's Downtown Campus
Free and Open to the Public
Cosponsored by ASUBA

Saul Williams
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Sonia Sanchez, poet, activist, and scholar, emerged as one of the strongest voices in the 1960s Black Arts Movement. She is the author of fourteen books, including ten volumes of poetry and three children's books. She has also written seven plays. Her best known works include the debut poetry collection Homecoming (1969), A Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women (1973), Homegirls & Handgrenades (1984), which won the American Book Award, Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems (1998), and most recently, Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems (1999); and the plays Black Cats Back and Uneasy Landings (1995), and I'm Black When I'm Singing, I'm Blue When I Ain't (1982).

As Kalamu Salaam has noted, she was "one of the few creative artists who. . .significantly influenced the course of black American literature and culture." Sanchez's stand against acculturalation has often taken the form of a poetic diction that defies the dictates of standard English, a political stand that has played an instrumental role in legitimizing the use of urban Black English in literature. "More than any other poet," writes Haki Madhubuti, ". . .she had taken Black speech and put in in the context of world literature."

Shake Loose My Skin (1999), is a powerful and varied collection. In it Sanchez combines an ear for the rhythms of street speech with a sophisticated formal repertoire, shifting with ease from a blues-inspired love poem to a political call to arms. A master of haiku, tanka, and even villanelle, Sanchez reconstructs these and other forms with her unique poetic vision. Her world is one of hardship, violence and oppression, but it is also one of passion, strength and tenderness.

Sanchez's poetry has earned her numerous literary honors, including an NEA fellowship, an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, PEN fellowship in the arts, a Legacy Award, as well as nominations (in 1998) for both a National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry and NAACP Image Award. Her lifelong commitment to social justice has distinguished Sanchez as a force to be reckoned with in American literature.

An innovator in the field of education as well, Sanchez became a crusader and curriculum developer in the 1960s for black studies programs in American colleges and universities. At Amherst College, she became the first American college professor to offer a full-fledged seminar on literature by black American women. Sonia Sanchez is currently Laura Carnell Professor of English and Women's Studies at Temple University.

"The poetry of Sonia Sanchez is full of power and yet always clean and uncluttered. It makes you wish you had thought those thoughts, felt those emotions, and above all, expressed them so effortlessly and so well." - Chinua Achebe

". . .a lion in literature's forest." - Maya Angelou

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Saul Williams, the supernova of the young Black poetry movement, starred in and co-wrote the movie SLAM, which will be will be shown on Thursday, February 10th at 7:30 p.m. in Page Hall. Voted "Best Actor" by the Independent Film Council for that role, he will soon be starring in a new film, SLAM NATION: THE SPORT OF THE SPOKEN WORD. He is the author of two collections of poetry, She (1999) and The Seventh Octave (1998), which combine the energy and urgency of hip-hop with the imagery and scope of classical verse.

In 1996 Williams became the Grand Champion of Brooklyn's Nuyorican Poetry Cafe, following in the footsteps of such noted young poets as Paul Beatty, Maggie Estep and Tish Benson. A leading figure in Brooklyn's underground poetry scene, Williams has been featured in the documentary Underground Voices, directed by Tony Award-winning poet Reg. E Gaines, and the documentary Slam Nation, directed by Paul Devlin, which examines the growing popularity of slam poetry through the eyes of Williams and his Nuyorican Slam teammates as they venture to the National Poetry Festival in Portland, Oregon.

Williams has collaborated with numerous popular musicians (hip-hop, jazz and experimental) and shared the stage with Allen Ginsburg, Amiri Baraka, The Fugees, The Jungle Brothers, and Eryah Badu. His poetry has been featured in the New York Times, Bomb Magazine, Red Clay Magazine, and African Voices as well as in several anthologies. William received an M.F.A. in Drama from New York University.

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