Sonia Sanchez's collection of haiku celebrates the gifts of life and mourns the deaths of revered African American figures in the worlds of music, literature, art, and activism. In her verses, we hear the sounds of Max Roach "exploding in the universe," the "blue hallelujahs" of the Philadelphia Murals, and the voice of Odetta "thundering out of the earth." Sanchez sings the praises of contemporaries whose poetic alchemy turns "words into gems": Maya Angelou, Richard Long, and Toni Morrison. And she pays homage to peace workers and civil rights activists from Rosa Parks and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm to Brother Damu, founder of the National Black Environmental Justice Network. Often arranged in strings of twelve or more, the haiku flow one into the other in a steady song of commemoration. Sometimes deceptively simple, her lyrics hold a very powerful load of emotion and meaning.
There are intimate verses here for family and friends, verses of profound loss and silence, of courage and resilience. Sanchez is innovative, composing haiku in new forms, including a section of moving two-line poems that reflect on the long wake of 9/11. In a brief and personal opening essay, the poet explains her deep appreciation for haiku as an art form. With its touching portraits and by turns uplifting and heartbreaking lyrics, Morning Haiku contains some of Sanchez's freshest, most poignant work.
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14 haiku (for Emmett Louis Till)
Your limbs buried in northern muscle carry their own heartbeat
alert with conjugated pain
young Chicago stutterer whistling more than flesh
your pores wild stars embracing southern eyes
foot prints blooming in the night remember your blood
in this southern classroom summer settles into winter
i hear your pulse swallowing neglected light
your limbs fly off the ground little birds…
we taste the blood ritual of southern hands
blue midnite breaths sailing on smiling tongues
say no words time is collapsing in the woods
a mother’s eyes remembering a cradle pray out loud
walking in Mississippi i hold the stars between my teeth
your death a blues, i could not drink away.