Dr. John Zheng, chair and professor of English at Mississippi Valley State University, has published his fifth edited book, Sonia Sanchez's Poetic Spirit through Haiku, in June 2017 with Lexington Books. This collection of ten critical essays is the first scholarly criticism of haiku by Sonia Sanchez, who has exemplified herself for six decades as a major figure in the Black Arts Movement, a central activist in civil rights and women’s movements, and an internationally-known writer in American literature. Sanchez’s haiku, as an integral and prominent part of contemporary African American poetry, have expressed not only her ideas of nature, beauty, and harmony but also her aesthetic experience of music, culture, and love. Aesthetically, this experience reflects a poetic mind which has helped the poet to shape or reimage her poetic spirit.
William Ferris, distinguished professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues states that “Sonia Sanchez's Poetic Spirit through Haiku explores how Sonia Sanchez used haiku to empower her voice within the Black Arts Movement. The volume’s editor John Zheng explains that Sanchez expressed herself as “a protest poet, a fighter, and a revolutionary” through haiku, a poetic form that originated as Japanese court poetry. Zheng notes that Sanchez, like Richard Wright, embraced haiku as a comfortable, familiar poetic structure. John Zheng’s pioneering work on haiku in Richard Wright in his earlier book The Other World of Richard Wright: Perspectives on His Haiku and this fine work on Sonia Sanchez offers the reader a fascinating new perspective on both writers.”
Philip C. Kolin, distinguished scholar on Tennessee Williams and editor of Southern Quarterly at University of Southern Mississippi says that “John Zheng has assembled a distinguished group of contributors to study Sonia Sanchez's haiku in a volume that needs to be read and savored. The essays, plus Zheng's masterful introduction and own contribution, discuss such powerful topics as the origins and development of the African American haiku, racial memory and representation in Sanchez's haiku, and the way she was influenced by and incorporates the blues, civil rights, and ethnographic celebration into her poems. Zheng and his contributors deserve kudos for building bridges between ancient poetic traditions and one of the today's most prolific and gifted African American poets.”
Dr. Zheng appreciates Professor Sanchez for her generous support of this book project, the publisher for their support of academic research, Mississippi Valley State University for the opportunity to best represent the institution in its intellectual enrichment, and the J.H. White Library for their tireless help.