I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition.
If I’m the people’s poet, then I ought to be in people’s hands – and, I hope, in their heart.
I’ve never had a dislike for men. I’ve been badly treated by some. But I’ve been loved greatly by some. I married a lot of them.
I like to speak on matters which matter to human beings, and almost everything matters to human beings.
At one time in my life, from the time I was seven until I was about 13, I didn’t speak. I only spoke to my brother. The reason I didn’t speak: I had been molested, and I told the name of the molester to my brother who told it to the family.
If you’re a human being, you can attempt to do what other human beings have done. We don’t understand talent any more than we understand electricity.
I was a dancer for many years. I was a premier dancer with ‘Porgy and Bess,’ the opera. And I taught dance some, in different places.
I’m happy to be a writer – of prose, poetry, every kind of writing. Every person in the world who isn’t a recluse, hermit or mute uses words. I know of no other art form that we always use.
Shakespeare – I was very influenced – still am – by Shakespeare. I couldn’t believe that a white man in the 16th century could so know my heart.
When I was 8 years old I became a mute and was a mute until I was 13, and I thought of my whole body as an ear, so I can go into a crowd and sit still and absorb all sound. That talent or ability has lasted and served me until today.
I was married a few times, and one of my husbands was jealous of me writing.
I promised myself that I would write as well as I can, tell the truth, not to tell everything I know, but to make sure that everything I tell is true, as I understand it. And to use the eloquence which my language affords me.
The hope, the hope that lives in the breast of the black American, is just so tremendous that it overwhelms me sometimes.
It’s so tedious writing cookbooks or writing the recipes because I’ve never been much of a measurer. But to write a book, you have to measure everything.
I will not sit in a room with black people when the N word is used. I know it was meant to belittle a person, so I will not sit there and have that poison put on me. Now a black person can say, ‘Oh, you know, I can use this word because I’m black.’
I’m always disappointed when people don’t live up to their potential. I know that a number of people look down on themselves and consequently on everybody who looks like them. But that, too, can change.