Write Here: Women Poets of the Village — Lola Ridge and Sonia Sanchez
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.
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.
According to her biography by Terese Svoboda, Anything that Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet, Ridge 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.
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.
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.
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.