I believe that if you don’t derive a deep sense of purpose from what you do, if you don’t come radiantly alive several times a day, if you don’t feel deeply grateful at the tremendous good fortune that has been bestowed on you, then you are wasting your life. And life is too short to waste.
I’ve made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I’m convinced of the opposite.
Though my poems are about evenly split between traditionally formal work that uses rhyme and meter and classical structure, and work that is freer, I feel that the music of language remains at the core of it all. Sound, rhythm, repetition, compression – these elements of my poetry are also elements of my prose.
To hate, to love, to think, to feel, to see; all this is nothing but to perceive.
There is luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves, we feel no one else has a right to blame us.
When someone tells me about Malala, the girl who was shot by the Taliban – that’s my definition for her – I don’t think she’s me. Now I don’t even feel as if I was shot. Even my life in Swat feels like a part of history or a movie I watched. Things change. God has given us a brain and a heart which tell us how to live.
My job as a human being as well as a writer is to feel as thoroughly as possible the experience that I am part of, and then press it a little further.
The Vietnam War and the Iraq war, in different ways, both made me feel like I could not not address them. I’m very doubtful about the usefulness of poetry to do that.
Poetry offers works of art that are beautiful, like paintings, which are my second favorite work of the art, but there are also works of art that embody emotion and that are kind of school for feeling. They teach how to feel, and they do this by the means of their beauty of language.
Sometimes I feel as if I am read before I write. When I write a poem about my mother, Palestinians think my mother is a symbol for Palestine. But I write as a poet, and my mother is my mother. She’s not a symbol.