Street Lit

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Sonia Sanchez’s widely acclaimed poetry might best be called “Street Lit,” a relatively new term for a literary genre with a rich past in African American letters. Sanchez is considered one of the chief shapers of “Street Lit” more specifically and of African American poetry more generally. In the Heath Anthology of American Literature, the editors suggest that to examine Sanchez’s pieces, one must forget traditional definitions of poetry. The editors go on to note that Sanchez’s work is intentionally “anti-intellectual” and opposed to academia, aimed at challenging readers to formulate their own conceptions about what is or is not aesthetically pleasing. Just as W. E. B. Du Bois claimed that all art is, or should be, political, Sanchez unabashedly fuses art and issues of social justice so seamlessly in her poetry that it seems that art must be political to matter. That said, to call Sanchez a political poet would be to misunderstand her deep contribution to American arts and letters that moves well beyond what one may consider political. Just as the great poets who preceded her, Sanchez writes poems that move well beyond the personal and the political to resonate universally.

One of Sanchez’s major themes is not merely survival but the will to renewal; the personal and political are often combined in Sanchez’s poems, one dimension of experience illuminating the other. This poetry is also often public poetry, in the sense...

(The entire section is 566 words.)