Perhaps...I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am a woman, because I am Black, because I am a lesbian, because I am myself -- a Black woman warrior poet doing my work -- come to ask you, are you doing yours?
Anger, used, does not destroy. Hatred does.
You cannot use someone else's fire. You can only use your own. And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe that you have it.
As we come to know, accept, and explore our feelings, they will become sanctuaries and fortresses and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas-the house of difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action.
Dark-bright fire lit eyes.
Divide and conquer must become define and empower.
I learned to teach grammar. And then I realized that we can't separate these two things. We have to do them together because they're integral. That's when I learned how important grammar is, that part of the understanding process is grammatical. That's how I taught myself to write prose. I keep learning and learning. I'd come into my class and say, "Guess what I found out last night. Tenses are a way of ordering the chaos around time." I learned that grammar was not arbitrary, that it served a purpose, that it helped to form the way we through, that it could be freeing as well as restrictive.
Sadomasochism is an institutionalized celebration of dominant subordinate relationships. And, it prepares us either to accept subordination or to enforce dominance. Even in play, to affirm that the exertion of power over powerlessness is erotic, is empowering, is to set the emotional and social stage for the continuation of that relationship, politically, socially, and economically.
For each of us as women, there is a dark place within, where hidden and growing our true spirit rises, beautiful and tough as chestnut stanchions against our nightmare of weakness. Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling.
The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling..
The principal horror of any system which defines the good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, or which defines human need to the exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need--the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment.
The principal horror of any system which defines the good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, or which defines the human need to the exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need -- the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment. Such a system reduces work to a travesty of necessities, a duty by which we earn bread or oblivion for ourselves and those we love. But this is tantamount to blinding a painter and then telling her to improve her work, and to enjoy the act of painting. It's not only next to impossible, it is also profoundly cruel.
Pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling.
When I use my strength in the service of my vision it makes no difference whether or not I am afraid.
Every Black woman in America lives her life somewhere along a wide curve of ancient and unexpressed angers.
I started writing because I had a need inside of me to create something that was not there.
In a society where the good is defined in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, there must always be some group of people who, through systematised oppression, can be made to feel surplus, to occupy the space of the dehumanised inferior.
Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution, but more usually we must do battle where we are standing.
The difference between poetry and rhetoric
s being ready to kill yourself instead of your children.
If I participate, knowingly or otherwise, in my sister's oppression and she calls me on it, to answer her anger with my own only blankets the substance of our exchange with reaction. It wastes energy. And yes, it is very difficult to stand still and to listen to another woman's voice delineate an agony I do not share, or one to which I myself have contributed.It wastes energy. And yes, it is very difficult to stand still and to listen to another woman's voice delineate an agony I do not share, or one to which I myself have contributed.
I cannot afford to believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.
There are no new pains.
There are lesbians, God knows... if you came up through lesbian circles in the forties and fifties in New York... who were not feminist and would not call themselves feminists.
Each of us must find our work and do it. Militancy no longer means guns at high noon, if it ever did. It means actively working for change, sometimes in the absence of any surety that change is coming. It means doing the unromantic and tedious work necessary to forge meaningful coalitions, and it means recognizing which coalitions are possible and which coalitions are not. It means knowing that coalition, like unity, means the coming together of whole, self-actualized human beings, focused and believing, not fragmented automatons marching to a prescribed step. It means fighting despair.
When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.
We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings. But, once recognized, those which do not enhance our future lose their power and can be altered. The fear of our desires keeps them suspect and indiscriminately powerful, for to suppress any truth is to give it strength beyond endurance.
But the true feminist deals out of a lesbian consciousness whether or not she ever sleeps with women.
Advocating the mere tolerance of difference between women is the grossest reformism. it is a total denial of the creative function of difference in our lives. Difference must be not merely toleration, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within the interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters.
I am not only a casualty, I am also a warrior.
If you don't define yourself for yourself then you will be crushed into other's fantasies of you and eaten alive.
I forgot what we were celebrating. Because we were always celebrating something, a new job, a new poem, a new love, a new dream.
I agreed to take part in a New York University Institute for Humanities conference a year ago..
For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.
The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticized sensation.
The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have often turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with its opposite, the pornographic. But pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling.
The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire.
We are all more blind to what we have than to what we have not.
Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now.
I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.
The fear that we cannot grow beyond whatever distortions we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, externally defined, and leads us to accept many facets of our own oppression as women.
The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.
Each time you love, love as deeply as if it were forever -- only, nothing is eternal.
The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.
The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.
DeLois lived up the block on 142nd Street and never had her hair done, and all the neighbourhood women sucked their teeth as she walked by. Her crispy hair twinkled in the summer sun as her big proud stomach moved her on down the block while I watched, not caring whether or not she was a poem.
In discussions around the hiring and firing of Black faculty at universities, the charge is frequently heard that Black women are more easily hired than are Black men.
Women are powerful and dangerous.
I realize that if I wait until I am no longer afraid to act, write, speak, be, I'll be sending messages on a Ouija board, cryptic complaints from the other side.
You loved people and you came to depend on their being there. but people died or changed or went away and it hurt too much. The only way to avoid that poin was not to love anyone, and not to let anyone get too close or too important. The secret of not being hurt like this again, I decided, was never depending on anyone, never needing, never loving.It is the last dream of children, to be forever untouched.
Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.
When I speak of the erotic, then I speak of it as an assertion of the life force of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.
Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.
Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge. They are chaotic, sometimes painful, sometimes contradictory, but they come from deep within us. And we must key into those feelings... This is how new visions begin.
So it is better to speak, remembering we were never meant to survive.
My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant survival, and before I give it up I'm going to be sure that there is something at least as powerful to replace it on the road to clarity.
The transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation .
But, on the other hand, I get bored with racism too and recognize that there are still many things to be said about a Black person and a White person loving each other in a racist society.
We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired.
But in a crunch, when all our asses are in the sling, it looks like it is easier to deal with the samenesses. When we deal with sameness only, we develop weapons that we use against each other when the differences become apparent. And we wipe each other out -- Black men and women can wipe each other out -- far more effectively than outsiders do.
We must constantly encourage ourselves and each other to attempt the heretical actions that our dreams imply and so many of our old ideas disparage.
Certainly there are very real differences between us of race, age, and sex. But it is not those differences between us that are separating us. It is rather our refusal to recognize those differences, and to examine the distortions which result from our misnaming them and their effects upon human behavior and expectation.
You are the one that you are looking for.
If our history has taught us anything, it is that action for change directed against the external conditions of our oppressions is not enough.
Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reasons they are dying.
If you come as softly As wind within the trees You may hear what I hear See what sorrow sees. If you come as lightly As threading dew I will take you gladly Nor ask more of you. You may sit beside me Silent as a breath Only those who stay dead Shall remember death. And if you come I will be silent Nor speak harsh words to you. I will not ask you why, now. Or how, or what you do. We shall sit here, softly Beneath two different years And the rich earth between us Shall drink our tears.
My experience with people who tried to label me was that they usually did it to either dismiss me or use me.
For those of us who write, it is necessary to scrutinize not only the truth of what we speak, but the truth of that language by which we speak it.
I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do. I am going to write fire until it comes out of my ears, my eyes, my noseholes -- everywhere. Until it's every breath I breathe. I'm going to go out like a fucking meteor!
When there is no connection at all between people, then anger is a way of bringing them closer together, of making contact. But when there is a great deal of connectedness that is problematic or threatening or unacknowledged, then anger is a way of keeping people separate, of putting distance between us.
In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.
Black women sharing close ties with each other, politically or emotionally, are not the enemies of Black men.
Afraid is a country with no exit visas.
In other words, I would be giving in to a myth of sameness which I think can destroy us.
Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat.
And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.
If what we need to dream, to move our spirits most deeply and directly toward and through promise, is discounted as a luxury, then we give up the core -- the fountain -- of our power, our womanness; we give up the future of our worlds. (From "Poetry is Not a Luxury").
Guilt is only another way of avoiding informed action.
Battling racism and battling heterosexism and battling apartheid share the same urgency inside me as battling cancer.
Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.
Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters.
Tomorrow belongs to those of us who conceive of it as belonging to everyone; who lend the best of ourselves to it, and with joy.
I am my best work -- a series of road maps, reports, recipes, doodles, and prayers from the front lines.
Once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy.
African tradition deals with life as an experience to be lived. In many respects, it is much like the Eastern philosophies in that we see ourselves as a part of a life force; we are joined, for instance, to the air, to the earth. We are part of the whole-life process. We live in accordance with, in a kind of correspondence with the rest of the world as a whole. And therefore living becomes an experience, rather than a problem, no matter how bad or how painful it may be.
Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me. I am who I am, doing what I came to do, acting upon you like a drug or a chisel to remind you of your me-ness, as I discover you in myself.
Attend me, hold me in your muscular flowering arms, protect me from throwing any part of myself away.
Black women have on one hand always been highly visible, and so, on the other hand, have been rendered invisible through the depersonalization of racism.
There is so much false spirituality around us these days, calling itself goddess-worship or "the way." It is false because too cheaply bought and little understood, but most of all because it does not lend, but rather saps, that energy we need to do our work. So when an example of the real power of healing love comes along such as this one, it is difficult to use the same words to talk about it because so many of our best and most erotic words have been so cheapened.
Perhaps I can say this all more simply; I say the love of women healed me.
The absence of any consideration of lesbian consciousness or the consciousness of third world women leaves a serious gap within this conference.
The absence of any consideration of lesbian consciousness or the consciousness of third world women leaves a serious gap within this conference..
Love is a word, another kind of open.
As the diamond comes into a knot of flame I am Black because I come from the earth's inside take my word for jewel in the open light.
I am a Black Lesbian Feminist Warrior Poet Mother, stronger for all my identities, and I am indivisible.
Self-care is not about self-indulgence , it is about self-preservati on.
Did you ever read my words, or did you merely finger through them for quotations which you thought might valuably support an already conceived idea concerning some old and distorted connection between us?
Wherever the bird with no feet flew, she found trees with no limbs.
What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heel print upon another woman's face?
What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman's face? What woman's terms of oppression have become precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous, away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny?
There are many lesbians and gay men trapped by their fear into silence and invisibility, and they exist in a dim valley of terror wearing nooses of conformity.
I am still learning -- how to take joy in all the people I am, how to use all my selves in the service of what I believe, how to accept when I fail and rejoice when I succeed.
Part of the lesbian consciousness is an absolute recognition of the erotic within our lives and, taking that a step further, dealing with the erotic not only in sexual terms.
It is axiomatic that if we do not define ourselves for ourselves, we will be defined by others-for their use and to our detriment.
I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect....what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? ...Death on the other hand, is the final silence...my silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you.
I became more courageous by doing the very things I needed to be courageous for-first, a little, and badly. Then, bit by bit, more and better. Being avidly-sometimes annoy-ingly-curious and persistent about discovering how others were doing what I wanted to do.
If the problems of Black women are only derivatives of a larger contradiction between capital and labor, then so is racism, and both must be fought by all of us. The capitalist structure is a many-headed monster. I might add here that in no socialist country that I have visited have I found an absence of racism or of sexism, so the eradication of both of these diseases seems to involve more than the abolition of capitalism as an institution.
As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.
I think that in America there are certain kind of problems and in Russia there are certain kinds of problems, but basically, when you find people who start from a position where human beings are at the core, as opposed to a position where profit is at the core, the solutions can be very different.
Staples pleads his cause by saying capitalism has left the black man only his penis for fulfillment, and a "curious rage." Is this rage any more legitimate than the rage of black women? And why are black women supposed to absorb that male rage in silence? Why isn't that male rage turned upon those forces which limit his fulfillment, namely capitalism?
Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society's definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference -- those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are black, who are older -- know that survival is not an academic skill...For the master's tools will not dismantle the master's house. They will never allow us to bring about genuine change.
To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society.
I would like to do another piece of fiction dealing with a number of issues: Lesbian parenting, the 1960's, and interracial relationships in the Lesbian and Gay community.
When I dare to be powerful -- to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
There is a timbre of voice that comes from not being heard and knowing you are not being heard noticed only by others not heard for the same reason.
I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigated pain. It is important to share how I know survival is survival and not just a walk throught the rain.
Black women are programmed to define ourselves within this male attention and to compete with each other for it rather than to recognize and move upon our common interests.
People in markets find a way of getting down to the essentials of I have, you want; you have, I want.
I am a Black Feminist. I mean I recognize that my power as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my blackness as well as my womaness, and therefore my struggles on both of these fronts are inseparable.
I learned to read from Mrs. Augusta Baker, the children's librarian. ... If that was the only good deed that lady ever did in her life, may she rest in peace. Because that deed saved my life, if not sooner, then later, when sometimes the only thing I had to hold on to was knowing I could read.
For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.
Art is not living. It is the use of living.
The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt.
Any world which did not have a place for me loving women was not a world in which I wanted to live, nor one which I could fight for.
The love expressed between women is particular and powerful because we have had to love in order to live; love has been our survival.
Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people.
Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. As members of such an economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human difference between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. But we have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals. As a result, those differences have been misnamed and misused in the service of separation and confusion.
Learning not to crumple before these uncertainties fuels my resolve to print myself upon the texture of each day fully rather than forever.
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.
For women, the need and desire to nurture each other is not pathological but redemptive, and it is within that knowledge that our real power is rediscovered. It is this real connection, which is so feared by a patriarchal world.
The sixties were characterized by a heady belief in instantaneous solutions.
We must recognize and nurture the creative parts of each other without always understanding what will be created.
Raising Black children-female and male-in the mouth of a racist, sexist, suicidal dragon is perilous and chancy. If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they will probably not survive.
Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it.
Those of us forged in the crucibles of difference know that survival is not an academic skill.
Once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives..
I have no creative use for guilt, yours or my own. Guilt is only another way of avoiding informed action, of buying time out of the pressing need to make clear choices, out of the approaching storm that can feed the earth as well as bend the trees.
I have suckled the wolf's lip of anger and I have used it for illumination, laughter, protection, fire in places where there was no light, no food, no sisters, no quarter.
I stand here as a black lesbian feminist, having been invited to comment within the only panel at this conference where the input of black feminists and lesbians is represented. What this says about the vision of this conference is sad, in a country where racism, sexism and homophobia are inseparable..
When we admit and deal with difference; when we deal with the deep bitterness; when we deal with the horror of even our different nightmares; when we turn them and look at them, it's like looking at death: hard but possible. If you look at it directly without embracing it, then there is much less that you can ever be made to fear.
For we have built into all of us, old blueprints of expectation and response, old structures of oppression and these must be altered at the same time that we alter the living condition which are the result of those structures. For the master's tool will never dismantle the master's house.
Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.
Every woman I have ever known has made a lasting impression on my soul.
The strongest lesson I can teach my son is the same lesson I teach my daughter: how to be who he wishes to be for himself.
Anger is loaded with information and energy.
From my membership in all of these groups I have learned that oppression and the intolerance of difference come in all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities; and that among those of us who share the goals of liberation and a workable future for our children, there can be no hierarchies of oppression.
And that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.
We tend to think of the erotic as an easy, tantalizing sexual arousal. I speak of the erotic as the deepest life force, a force which moves us toward living in a fundamental way.
I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We've been taught that silence would save us, but it won't.
Il tuo silenzio non ti proteggerà.
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak.