I have never considered myself a poet. I have no interest in poetic artistry.
Even if you walk exactly the same route each time – as with a sonnet – the events along the route cannot be imagined to be the same from day to day, as the poet’s health, sight, his anticipations, moods, fears, thoughts cannot be the same.
I try to stay a civilian, to live as a human, not as a poet.
To the poet, his travels, his adventures, his loves, his indignations are finally resolved in verse, and this, in the end becomes his permanent, indestructible life.
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.
It’s the combination of the intimate and the public that I find so exciting about being poet laureate.
I have always used a great variety of verse forms, especially in my poetry for children. I believe that poetry begins in childhood and that a poet who can remember his own childhood exactly can, and should, communicate to children.
There’s not a good poet I know who has not at the beck and call of his memory a vast quantity of poetry that composes his mental library.
That’s a wonderful change that’s taken place, and so most poetry today is published, if not directly by the person, certainly by the enterprise of the poet himself, working with his friends.
I was a victim of a stereotype. There were only two of us Negro kids in the whole class, and our English teacher was always stressing the importance of rhythm in poetry. Well, everybody knows – except us – that all Negroes have rhythms, so they elected me class poet.