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