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Author, Feminist and Poet Alice Walker Reads Some of Her Poetry

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Author, feminist and poet Alice Walker reads some of her poetry. Her poems have a focus on social issues.

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AMY GOODMAN: And we’ll end today’s show with some poetry of Alice Walker. Alice Walker came to New York a few weeks ago at the invitation of the Learning Alliance, a nonprofit educational group here that brings grassroots activists, authors, writers together to speak with audiences, and she shared some of her poetry.

ALICE WALKER: I want to read some poems to you to thank you for your presence. These are poems that I wrote over many years, and I actually was asked to give a commencement address at my old school, Spelman, in Atlanta. And I wanted to give the women there something really meaningful, and so I decided to give them a few of my poems that I had written over the years. And this first one is called “Expect Nothing,” and it’s sort of about the openness of no expectation.

Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
Become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of the urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress
Unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Consider the reason why
So tiny human giant
Exists at all
So scared so unwise
But expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.

In this next poem, I was wanting to talk to them about how hard it is when you sometimes — usually this happens in college. You begin to understand that the jewelry around somebody’s neck cost the life of human beings. And I was thinking of a photograph of an African miner who was actually going to be underground his entire life, digging out the diamonds that would wind up on the necks of the people that you and I see every day. This is called “The Diamonds on Liz’s Bosom.”

The diamonds on Liz’s bosom
are not as bright
as his eyes
the morning they took him
to work in the mines.
The rubies in Nancy’s
jewel box (Oh, how Ron loves red!)
not as vivid
as the despair
in his children’s
Oh, those Africans!

Everywhere you look
they’re bleeding
and crying
Crying and bleeding
on some of the whitest necks
in your town.

And then, how to change change this? And all change starts with the self. This is called “We Alone.”

We alone can devalue gold
by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.
Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
is gold
so much the worse
for you.
Feathers, shells,
and sea-shaped stones
are all as rare.

This could be our revolution:
To love what is plentiful
as much as
what is scarce.

But then I wanted to talk to them about …

AMY GOODMAN: And you’ve been listening to a few poems of Alice Walker, that we’ll continue to play. Again, she was reading in New York in an event sponsored by the New York-based Learning Alliance, author, feminist poet, Alice Walker.

And we’re going to go out today with the music of Bobby McFerrin, “The 23rd Psalm,” in a song dedicated, he says, to his mother. Democracy Now! is produced by Dan Coughlin; our engineer and assistant producer, Errol Maitland. Julie Drizin is our executive producer. Special thanks to Kenneth Mason, our engineer for the last year. Ken leaves us this week to go on to a brighter and better future. All of us at Democracy Now! will miss his reliability, patience, advice, intelligence and caring. Good luck, Ken. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can call to order a cassette, 1-800-735-0230. That’s 1-800-735-0230. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for listening to another edition of Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!

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