Write Here: Women Poets of the Village — Lola Ridge and Sonia Sanchez

Write Here: Women Poets of the Village — Lola Ridge and Sonia Sanchez
The Ghetto and Other Poems by Lola Ridge (published 1918) and Homegirls and Handgrenades by Sonia Sanchez (published 1984). Credit (both): Amazon.

On March 26th, 2018, GVSHP and friends will gather around the Cherry Lane Theater stage by candlelight to celebrate the trailblazing women poets of the Village. Each poet merits an entire book (at least) in celebration of her life, work, and legacy.  But today we’ll focus on just two of them: Lola Ridge and Sonia Sanchez.

The Ghetto and Other Poems by Lola Ridge (published 1918) and Homegirls and Handgrenades by Sonia Sanchez (published 1984). Credit (both): Amazon.

Dublin-born Lola Ridge (b. 1873, d. 1941, born Rose Emily Ridge) moved from Ireland to New Zealand as a young teenager, to San Francisco as a college-educated poet and painter, and finally to New York as a political activist and established writer.  Accounts of her describe an ambitious, passionate, absurdly creative woman who never shied away from a good shock in her writing. She once stated, “Nice is the one adjective in the world that is laughable applied to any single thing I have ever written.”  But this didn’t stop her from receiving immense praise for her publications and influencing the brilliant minds around her.

Portrait photograph of Lola Ridge, 1935. Credit: Smith College.

According to her biography by Terese Svoboda, Anything that Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical PoetRidge lived at 9 East 12th Street (which sits just outside the boundaries of the Greenwich Village Historic District and is now part of the NYU School of Professional Studies) and 47 Morton Street, a 7-story apartment building that has very clearly undergone many changes since its construction in 1890. She also spent a considerable amount of time on the Lower East Side, the setting for her signature work, “The Ghetto,” and many of her other poems. Well-known as an advocate for immigrants and the working class, she purposely chose to live humbly and, even while in poor health, dedicated herself to protest and social justice. Her lifelong body of work reflects all of this about her – a fearless fighter, an inspired creator, and undoubtedly a force among the Village artists of the early 20th century.

A 1921 map from GVSHP’s resources page shows us East 12th Street between 5th Avenue and University Place, where Ridge lived at #9.

Sonia Sanchez (b. 1934) was born Wilsonia Benita Driver in Birmingham, Alabama, relocated to her father’s home in Harlem at the age of 9, received her degree in political science from Hunter College, and started to make her mark on the Village with her postgraduate studies at NYU. She formed and contributed to revolutionary workshops, artists’ groups, and academic institutions in the neighborhood. A fighter for justice and a “woman with razor blades between her teeth,” her poems are filled with fascinating visual language and raw, breathtaking explorations of complex experiences. From race and politics to lovers and womanhood, she delves into countless subjects using an incredible range of poetic forms.

Sonia Sanchez. Credit: Marion Ettlinger via poets.org.

Sanchez was a key contributor to the Black Arts Movement, working with her peers to take their activism and teachings throughout the country. Although by the mid-1960s she left New York for the West Coast and abroad, it’s inspiring to remember that her work and activism have their roots here. In this fantastic interview in memory of her friend and fellow poet Amiri Baraka, she recounts her days hanging out and making a difference in the neighborhood.  Sanchez is happily still writing and working, now living in Pennsylvania, and was most recently honored at the Brooklyn Museum in February 2018.

From Sanchez’ 1999 book of poems, Shake Loose My Skin. Credit: Beacon Press Books, via books.google.com.

There are, of course, so many other women poets of the Village to celebrate – some that have already been featured in Off the Grid (like here and here), and some that we’ll learn more about at Cherry Lane on March 26th! Our Women Poets of the Village program will include readings by Stephanie Berger, April Bernard, Elaine Equi, Angelina Fiordellisi, Diana Goetsch, Marie Howe, Deborah Landau, Elizabeth Macklin, Terese Svoboda, and Kathleen Widdoes.

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Watch the video online on our YouTube Channel.

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Laura Fleischmann

Laura Fleischmann is a Program and Administrative Associate

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2 comments on “Write Here: Women Poets of the Village — Lola Ridge and Sonia Sanchez
  1. Laura Fleischmann Mae Smith says:

    I’m an independent painter & writer after specific information regarding the ‘female’ (Raven) poets…
    The full roster of names [Raven Poets Circle]
    * The one female mystic>>? >> (The Gypsy…?)
    Photos of that era of street corners and buildings and cafes and the [names of] restaurants and bars patronized by these poets….
    Anyone able to help…? >> Thank you

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