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Poetry Moment: 'Ballad' by Sonia Sanchez

Poet Sonia Sanchez
Poet Sonia Sanchez

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Todd Davis is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona.

This episode’s poem is “Ballad” by Sonia Sanchez.

Sonia Sanchez was born on September 9, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1943, she moved to Harlem and later graduated from Hunter College with a degree in political science. During the early 1960s, Sanchez was an integrationist, supporting the philosophy of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). But after considering the ideas of Black Muslim leader Malcolm X, who believed Black people would never be truly accepted by white people in the United States, she focused on her Black heritage from a separatist point of view.

Sanchez is the author of over twenty volumes of poetry. Among the many honors she’s received are the Robert Creeley Award, the Frost Medal, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.

She was the first presidential fellow at Temple University, where she began teaching in 1977 and where she held the Laura Carnell Chair in English until her retirement in 1999. She continues to live in Philadelphia.

The ballad is one of the oldest poetic forms, one that often tells a story and was traditionally set to music. It emphasizes shared experience through storytelling, often including a refrain, and has its earliest roots in the oral tradition.

In her ballad, Sanchez grapples with the ways love enters our lives, the ways the young and the old perceive love quite differently. The speaker in her poem does not claim to hold any special wisdom into the power love has over us, remembering a time when she disappeared beneath it, but she cannot hide her emotions as she tells her young compatriot that she is too young for love. Along the way we’re offered insight into the many manifestations love takes on, both human and earthly.



            (after the spanish)

forgive me if i laugh
you are so sure of love
you are so young
and i too old to learn of love.

the rain exploding
in the air is love
the grass excreting her
green wax is love
and stones remembering
past steps is love,
but you. You are too young
for love
and i too old.

Once. What does it matter
When or who, i knew
of love.
i fixed my body
under his and went
to sleep in love
all trace of me
was wiped away

forgive me if i smile
Young heiress of a naked dream
You are so young
and i too old to learn of love.


That was “Ballad” by Sonia Sanchez.

Hear more episodes of Poetry Moment at

Music by Eric Ian Farmer.

Todd Davis is the 2022-23 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.