Does Your House Have Lions?

Overview

Nominated for the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry

Recommended Reading from Emerge

An epic poem on kin estranged, the death of a brother from AIDS, and the possibility of reconciliation and love in the face of loss.

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Overview

Nominated for the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry

Recommended Reading from Emerge

An epic poem on kin estranged, the death of a brother from AIDS, and the possibility of reconciliation and love in the face of loss.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
One of our more overlooked older poets, Sanchez writes concise, wounded poems that work on the page as well as aloud. A tragedy of sorts written in terse terza rima, this short narrative poem mourns the poet's half-brother's death from AIDS. Borrowing techniques from Greek tragedy and African ritual storytelling and song, it has a section for each speaker: sister, brother, father, and chorus of ancestors. Permeated with the pain of abandonment—the abandoner's, as well as the victim's—the poem is a road map for the disintegrating family: 'this father always a guest/ never a permanent resident of my veins/ always a traveler to other terrains.' It fades into disembodied voices at the end, the brother's death being one terminus of the ancestral line. But it is the ancestors who offer strength and permanence because they have turned suffering into a stoical wisdom. Interesting and moving. —Library Journal

"Well-versed jazz fans will recognize the title of Sanchez's book-length poem as something sax and flute virtuoso Rahsaan Roland Kirk said. That musical association is appropriate: this is a musical poem, cast in the voices of a woman, her half-brother, his mother, their father, and, in the last of its four sections, ancestors, including distant African forebears. The story the poem's seven-line stanzas (rhymed ababbcc and appearing one per page) unfold is one of wayward men and familially faithful women. Father cut out when the son was little, and the son, when a teenager, left to pursue a faster life in New York City. But the son, who, we gather from hints in the imagery, is gay, has become mortally ill—with AIDS, further images hint, though neither sickness nor sexuality is named. His crisis brings the family voices together, and Sanchez's brilliant imagery, more evocative with every reading, makes them resound with life and emotion. The last stanza, in which ancestral voices call the son's spirit home to Africa, is designated 'To be sung.' The whole poem sings and would make a splendid theatrical performance—with music." —Booklist

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rich in kin and kindred spirits, this panegyrical collection displays Sanchez's gift for crafting public poetry out of social issues and familial relationships. Straightforwardly, Sanchez (Wounded in the House of a Friend) documents her brother's death from AIDS, and the family's estrangement and reconciliation. Calculated tensions are expertly enhanced in rhyme royal stanzas where words and linebreaks virtually tumble across the page. The energy generated by this formal compression mirrors her brother's struggle against the confines of society: "and the days rummaging his eyes/ and the nights flickering through a slit/ of narrow bars. hips. thighs./ and his thoughts labeling him misfit/ as he prowled, pranced in the starlit/ city...." As the sequence of poems progresses, ancestral voices are introduced and the composition gives way to African words and rhythms: "i come, doctor./ mangi nyo captor." The stanzas compress and collapse as the brother's health deteriorates, ending in forceful dialogues between, for example, "brother" and "ancestor, female." Sanchez successfully evokes her brother's journey toward self-realization: "come here African/ come here African/ i am coming/ i am coming." In the volume's four sections, Sanchez moves from her brother's youth in the South, to his life in New York, and to his eventual death. Building in drama and preacherly cadences, this work is fluid, controlled and dexterously paced. (Apr.)
Library Journal
One of our more overlooked older poets, Sanchez writes concise, wounded poems that work on the page as well as aloud. A tragedy of sorts written in terse terza rima, this short narrative poem mourns the poet's half-brother's death from AIDS. Borrowing techniques from Greek tragedy and African ritual storytelling and song, it has a section for each speaker: sister, brother, father, and chorus of ancestors. Permeated with the pain of abandonmentthe abandoner's, as well as the victim'sthe poem is a road map for the disintegrating family: "this father always a guest/ never a permanent resident of my veins/ always a traveler to other terrains." It fades into disembodied voices at the end, the brother's death being one terminus of the ancestral line. But it is the ancestors who offer strength and permanence because they have turned suffering into a stoical wisdom. Interesting and moving, if occasionally straining to make a rhyme, this book is recommended.Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807068311
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 1/28/1998
  • Series: Blue Streak Series
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 1,005,072
  • Product dimensions: 5.41 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.23 (d)

Meet the Author

Sonia Sanchez poet, activist, scholar is Laura Carnell Professor of English and Women's Studies at Temple University and one of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement. She is author of many books, including Wounded in the House of a Friend and Does Your House Have Lions?, and a nominee for the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award. She lives in Philadelphia.
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