Getting personal with Sonia Sanchez at First Person Arts

Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez will kick off this year's First Person Arts Festival. Photo: Erika Vonie
Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez will kick off this year’s First Person Arts Festival.
Credit: Erika Vonie

Everybody has a story, even a poet laureate.

Or, perhaps we should say everybody has a story, especially a poet laureate. Sonia Sanchez, Philadelphia’s current poet laureate, will be joined by Nobel Prize winner Toni 
Morrison and former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove for Conversation and 
Song: Walking the Laureate Road, the kick-off event of this year’s First Person Arts 
Festival, Nov. 6 at the Drexel University main auditorium on 
Chestnut Street.

“Instead of letting them get up and do a reading, I thought it would be 
great to have a conversation about their works, about the country and being women 
who write that kind of thing,” Sanchez says. “I feel people can get more into their lives 
with a conversation instead of getting up there and reading and a question and answer. “The conversation will be constantly flowing and then we will open it up to the 
audience.”

There will be a lot of literary weight up there. Morrison’s novels include “Beloved” and she won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1993. Dove, primarily a poet, was the first African American to be named poet laureate of the United States, also in 1993.

As for Sanchez, she was born in Birmingham, Ala. in 1934, came of age in Harlem and has called Philadelphia home since she started teaching at Temple in the late ‘70s. A leading light of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, there is music, power, compassion and urgency in her voice.

Her two-year term as Philadelphia poet laureate expires at the end of the year. In her tenure, she’s forwarded the concept of peace in her “Peace Is A Haiku Song” initiative, where messages of peace were artistically framed on bus shelters, subway stops and sidewalks in the city. The “Peace Is A Haiku Song” mural, a collaboration with the Mural Arts Program which featured her haiku along with verse and words of Morrison, Maya Angelou, Common, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and more, was dedicated this past June at 1425 Christian St.

“After two years, you’re just gearing up,” says Sanchez, 79, of her tenure as city poet laureate. “I wanted very much to do great things for the city. I wanted them to come out, listen and feel praised because what we’re doing here in the city of Philadelphia.”

It’s a return engagement for Sanchez at the First Person Arts Festival, the flagship event for the city’s non-profit First Person Arts. The fest, now in its 12th year, is a celebration of storytelling in various forms. This year’s talent includes, along with Sanchez, Morrison and Dove, master storyteller Mike Daisey; Kevin Allison’s “RISK!;” Moth Grandslam champion Peter Aguero in the Philly premiere of his one-man show; a new story and song event hosted by Martha Graham Cracker, and much more.

Also, Sanchez returns in the fest with Angela Davis and Ana Castillo in the Politics of Poetry, Nov. 14 at the Christ Church Neighborhood House, which explores the area where activism and writing intersect.

Perhaps Sanchez will return to the First Person in future years as the poet laureate of the United States.

“[Writing is] a calling that you do, and if any award comes along, then good, but you’re not writing for awards, you’re writing because that’s what we’re driven to do,” Sanchez says. “I’ve been blessed to be able to do that which I love best.”

Conversation and Song: Walking the Laureate Road with Sonia Sanchez, Toni Morrison and Rita Dove with music by Ruth Naomi Floyd
Wednesday, Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m.
Drexel University Main Auditorium
3141 Chestnut St.
$35 ($28 for First Person Arts members)
www.firstpersonarts.org

12th Annual First Person Arts Festival
Wednesday, Nov. 6 to Saturday, Nov. 16
Christ Church Neighborhood House, Independence Seaport Museum, the Painted Bride Art Center and Drexel University
Ticket prices vary
www.firstpersonarts.org



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Local

VIDEO: NYPD seeks shooter in East New York…

Cops are on the lookout for an unknown shooter who aimed and missed hitting a man on a bicycle, instead nearly striking a nearby officer in East New York.

Local

NYS state forces thrift shops comply with ban…

Nine New York City thrift shops were reprimanded by the state attorney general for selling children's clothes with drawstrings around the neck and waist.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 11,…

Caleb's not a ghost. Spencer might still be an attempted murderer. And Hanna's going to die next week. In other words, we actually got some…

Movies

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

Marvel Entertainment's Stan Lee is adding outposts to his creative empire to interest a new generation of children in super heroes of all shapes and sizes.

Television

Mira Sorvino explores immortality on 'Intruders'

Mira Sorvino's new show "Intruders" centers around a secret society that achieves immortality by taking over the bodies of other people.

Television

5 things you need to know about new…

"Doctor Who" returns Saturday with a new star, Peter Capaldi. Here's some things to know about him (mainly his turn as sweary spin doctor Malcolm Tucker).

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

NFL

David Wilson returns to triple jump, sets sights…

Giants fans know David Wilson can jump. They are just more used to seeing him go for backflips, not distance.

Style

11 timeless gifts for registries or just because

Gifts to prove you're a style maven once and for all.

Parenting

How everyday moments can inspire kids' creativity

"The Artist's Way for Parents" author Julia Cameron gives advice on how parents and children can be creative together.

Tech

How to stay safe online

Stop worrying about keeping your online passwords safe, and start worrying about keeping your username a secret. Actually, worry about both. According to Shaun Murphy…

Tech

OpenTable now lets you pay your bill via…

The restaurant app OpenTable added the ability to pay your bill (and tip) with your phone, thus cutting back on a few dining annoyances.