I think the idea of the social construction of beauty – this idea that beauty is simply whatever culture or society says it is – is on the run. Of course, beauty does arise in a cultural context. No one ever denies that. But there’s also a natural response people have to it.
Alchemy is the art of far and near, and I think poetry is alchemy in that way. It’s delightful to distort size, to see something that’s tiny as though it were vast.
Smallpox was the worst disease in history. It killed more people than all the wars in history.
In the first instance, therefore, global terrorism created a kind of global community sharing a common fate, something we had previously considered impossible.
Poor people, people of color – especially are much more likely to be found in prison than in institutions of higher education.
In the ’70s I was in exile; every time I went back I wondered if they’d take my passport away.
I was very much a tough New York street kid. I went to a school where you had to learn how to get along with everybody or fight with everybody, and I did my fair share of both.
I would say for the young: Don’t be straight jacketed by ideology. Don’t be driven by a structure of ideas.
That’s true but I think the contemporary problem that we are facing increasing numbers of black people and other people of color being thrown into a status that involves work in alternative economies and increasing numbers of people who are incarcerated.
At 21, I discovered repression and injustice. The army would shoot students with real bullets.