When I started researching history in the 1960s, a lot of women about whom I’ve subsequently written were actually footnotes to history. There was a perception that women weren’t important. And it’s true. Women were seen historically as far inferior to men.
I’ve still not written as well as I want to. I want to write so that the reader in Des Moines, Iowa, in Kowloon, China, in Cape Town, South Africa, can say, ‘You know, that’s the truth. I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t a six-foot black girl, but that’s the truth.’
The history of progress is written in the blood of men and women who have dared to espouse an unpopular cause, as, for instance, the black man’s right to his body, or woman’s right to her soul.
All I write about is what’s happened to me and to people I know, and the better I know them, the more likely they are to be written about.
History is a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man.
The poetry you read has been written for you, each of you – black, white, Hispanic, man, woman, gay, straight.
Verse is not written, it is bled; Out of the poet’s abstract head. Words drip the poem on the page; Out of his grief, delight and rage.
There should be a democracy of voices in literature. There are people who live with a kind of striving and with a certain kind of tenderness – it’s not an unusual thing – and maybe that’s not written about enough.
I don’t think I’ve ever written a poem whose intention was just to be funny. I’ve written poems that start out funny and often shift into something more serious.
If I were to die thinking that I’d written three poems that people might read after me, I would feel that I hadn’t lived in vain. Great poets might expect the whole body of their work, but most of us – well, I would settle for a handful.