Sunday, May 17, 2015

An Exploration of the Work of Sonia Sanchez

         Prior to my second year as a transfer student at California State University—Los Angeles, I had never heard of Sonia Sanchez.  After reading some of her work online for my Senior Seminar on Music and Literature, I began to wonder about the relationship between what has been written on paper, and what is said orally when someone recites poetry.  In fact, listening to literature through audio recordings and listening to music are both very different experiences when compared to reading written language silently.  Reading language with the sense of sight also does not have the same impact that listening to written language has upon the mind.  For example, if someone were to simply read a text, he or she might not understand the meaning of that text immediately.  Additionally, hearing a recitation of a literary piece only provides a limited experience, especially for people who might not be accustomed to a specific language of a certain text.  Combining reading with listening can enhance the learning experience of a person because it would engage more of the human senses.  Ultimately, the fact is that music can create experiences for people who enjoy the sounds that they listen to using the sense of hearing, but writing is able to record such thoughts, sounds, and ideas so that the sounds can create pleasure for people willing to bask in its musicality, otherwise known as the mixture of sounds that give a written text a distinctive voice if one were to speak it orally.
            Sonia Sanchez employs musical poetry that explores the undeniable power of love that unifies people even as generational differences between people attempt to separate them.  For example, in her poem entitled, “Ballad,” Sonia Sanchez uses lines that convey differences that people share.  For example, the lines, “forgive me if i laugh / you are so sure of love” (1-2) suggests that the speaker in this particular poem is trying to express the notion that love is more translucent rather than concrete.  The “laugh” (1) that this speaker is doing suggests that the speaker disregards the overly romanticized notion of love that is common for people of younger generations.  Ultimately, these two lines hold great significance because it reveals how the older are often times more aware about the world around them, while the young remain ignorant until they finally come of age.  Furthermore, the lines reveal that with age comes wisdom, and that sometimes people cannot learn certain life lessons until they reach a specific point in their metaphorical ballads known as life itself, which is still an enigmatic concept that people are still trying to comprehend.
            Additionally, I find it amazing that Sonia Sanchez would use improper capitalization in her work.  Returning to the poem entitled “Ballad,” I noticed that Sanchez kept everything in lower-case.  Such a technique suggests that the speaker of this poem is essentially child-like, and that the speaker also holds a sort of innocence that fades as people mature with age.  Moreover, the repetition of the idea of a person being “too young / for love” (11-12) questions the nature of love itself.  Perhaps Sanchez refers to the love that a person has for oneself because of how Sanchez employs the use of a fictional person who is too young and another person who is too old.  Additionally, since there is no capitalization within the entire poem, there is the possibility that no one can fully love another because all people are figurative children who can only grow old physically, but can never rise up to the challenges of loving others as people strive for maturity.  In fact, people in general can simply be too young or too old, and love might never be found at all since they are all unique individuals.  The idea of being oneself is also possible theme in this poem, and Sanchez might suggest that people can still be themselves in spite of the possible incapacity to love that affects them because of the age differences across generations. Furthermore, Kristin Krull's scholarly article entitled, "Global Contributions Of African American Writers: Using Poetry To Facilitate Connections Between Historical Periods And Students' Personal Experiences," explores how literature unifies people in spite of differences between language and what exactly is acceptable in terms of written work.  Krull reveals, "Ultimately, my encounter with Sonia Sanchez served to solidify my belief in and commitment to literature as a means to facilitate student connections to history and their own lives through culturally responsive teaching" (15).  Perhaps Sonia Sanchez defies conventional writing to suggest that breaking conventions can lead to better learning.
            Sonia Sanchez also combines cultural differences in her work to reveal universal themes in a diverse world.  For example, the poem, “21 Haiku,” holds some interesting features, including an allusion to Japanese culture.  The poem contains sensory features immediately at the beginning of this work with lines such as, “The sound of / your voice thundering out / of the earth” (1-3), which reveal how people can truly make an impact upon other people with the words that they express.  The poem also serves as a reminder that people need to be careful with what they say because once people speak out ideas orally through speech, they cannot revoke what they say.  The idea of using sounds within literature and music also implies that sounds can often times only be heard once.  It is possible to repeat something that a person has said in the past, but the original communication can never be found again because sound is not permanent.  Sanchez could suggest that people must communicate carefully within a diverse world.
            In contrast, writing can actually be permanent.  Whenever people express language orally, miscommunication is almost inevitable.  Sometimes a word that is said might not be heard correctly, the pitch might be too high or too low, or people could simply receive incorrect ideas through what a sender tries to express.  This is perhaps a reason why the oral tradition prevalent in ancient times has been lost, and the rise of the printing presses came about.  Specifically, in the scholarly article "Listening to Narratives: An Experimental Examination of Storytelling in the Classroom," by Katie L. Glonek and Paul E. King, the two of them reveal that, "Theoretically, the results demonstrate that constructivist theory of narrative comprehension is relevant to contexts beyond written texts—to listening contexts" (32).  The experiment that they conducted involved test subjects listening to auditory instructions, except some of the test subjects listened to audio in the form of a story while the others listened to a standard lecture.  According to their research, the people who listened to the instructions that sounded like a story remembered the instructions more clearly.  Thus, language and sound combine to create learning that is more permanent rather than simply listening to something standard. 
            The themes that Sonia Sanchez evokes also relates to my Playlist.  Even though my Playlist is still a work-in-progress, I am developing the theme of a combination between music, literature, and myself.  As of right now, the working title of my Playlist is “Music, Literature, and Me.”  My main goal for this Playlist is to preserve the work that I have been doing for my Senior Seminar so that I would be able to reflect on the work that I had done as I explored the relationship between music and literature, and how both of these concepts define me as an individual.  Sonia Sanchez has written about generational differences and the musicality of language, and I believe that those two themes apply to my own personal life as well.  For example, I am the youngest in my family, and I do not speak any language except English.  In spite of my limitations, I can still use music to convey ideas because music is often times universal.  I also love to sing, and I believe that I can use my willingness to sing to create joy for the people around me.  That is why music and language have a strong impact on my life.
            As an English Major at California State University—Los Angeles, I encounter literature and music on the regular basis, and both of these entities help define who I am.  Even when I am not literally reading or listening to music, I can still recall material that I have read or music that I have heard using my memory.  Unfortunately, the human brain can only remember so much.  Nevertheless, I can still remember that I am an avid admirer of literature and music, and that the musicality of language can impact me positively even if I cannot remember I have read or music I have heard in the past.  Additionally, the lessons that I learned from Sonia Sanchez will hopefully remain part of my memory as I reflect on my time as an undergraduate student.  Lessons, such as how I am part of my own generation, inspire me to do what I can with my time even if I am different from the people of different generations.  I also remember to learn to spread my love even though noble deeds I do today might be forgotten later on in my life. Ultimately, it is impossible to remember everything that happened to me in the past, but the life-long lessons that I had learned from those experiences can push me to develop myself as a person, and to progress rather than regress.
            The work of Sonia Sanchez has a profound effect upon me even though I had just begun reading her work very recently.  Analyzing her poetry has allowed me to deepen my analytical skills as I understand the relationship between diction and theme.  Additionally, reciting the poems aloud makes me question the relationship between music, sound, and literature.  In the end, I realized that music and literature has a connection that parallels the relationship between the past and the present.  People can read or listen to music in the present, but the effect that such work has on an individual would be different in the future if such people choose to reread or listen to music again.  That is because the experiences that happen in the present would hopefully remain a part of a person’s memory, and then a re-encounter of such work could evoke memories that happened in the past.  Listening to music and reading in the present moment can create sensory sensations that could cause elation, but such an experience ends once reading has been completed or when a person stops listening to music.  In the end, music does relate to literature because music and sound are both transient experiences that could only be experienced within the present, but literature can record thoughts and ideas on paper so that the musicality of language could be experienced later on in the future.  The past might be gone, but people could revisit literature so that sensory experiences could happen again, and impact future generations so that the past might not be completely forgotten even with the limitations of memory.  Memories sometimes do fade, but recording sounds and written work can help prevent such moments from fading completely into oblivion.

Works Cited

Glonek, Katie L., and Paul E. King. "Listening To Narratives: An Experimental
           Examination Of  Storytelling In The Classroom." International Journal Of
          Listening 28.1 (2014): 32-46. Academic Search Complete. Web. 21 May 2015.
Krull, Kristin. "Global Contributions Of African American Writers: Using Poetry
          To Facilitate Connections Between Historical Periods And Students' Personal
          Experiences." Black History Bulletin 72.1 (2009): 14-21. Academic Search
         Complete. Web. 21 May 2015.
Sanchez, Sonia. “Ballad.” Academy of American Poets, 2007. Web. 12 May
Sanchez, Sonia. “21 Haiku.” Harvard Review No. 36 (2009): 136-39. JSTOR. Web. 12
          May 2015.

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