VIDA Voices & Views – Rita Dove Interview

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m hosting a new video interview series for VIDA– VIDA Voices & Views. The program is an interview podcast designed to call attention to a plurality of voices by interviewing writers, editors, publishers, series curators, anthologists, awards committee members, and other dedicated members of the literary community about their own work, vision, and concerns, as well as topics at the forefront of literary activism. The program seeks to foster a better understanding of the literary landscape and the issues facing artists of both genders, as well as to provide nuanced conversation about gender parity, race, disability, LGBTQ, economic, and other crucial issues impacting writers today.

The executive producer of digital media for the program is the very talented RJ Jeffreys, who created a beautiful look for the series. You can read more about Jeffreys and the program here: http://www.vidaweb.org/about-vida-voices-views/.

My first conversation is with the wonderful human and poet Rita Dove. She gives a marvelous reading of her poems “Parsley” and “Claudette Colvin Goes to Work” and discusses topics ranging from literary bias masquerading as objectivity to sharing poetry with preschoolers. You can read more about Rita Dove and the episode here: http://www.vidaweb.org/rita-dove-vida-voices-views/.

As well, these are some of my favorite Rita Dove quotes from the episode: 

“My most radical pronouncement, if I were queen or something, would be that anywhere where there is more than one child together—any kind of group, if they have a schedule for the day—to end the day with a poem… sort of like pledging allegiance to the flag.”

“There is not going to be any change unless we can begin to talk about any little fear, any little hatred, any little bias that we might have and to admit that all human beings have them.”

“I wasn’t looking to lard [The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry] with rainbow colors. This is just the way it happened. These were the poems that were being published, and it made me feel hopeful. I said, ‘Look, look! Things are changing here.’”

“I remember what it was like as a child when I was reading poetry and couldn’t find anyone who had my life, who looked like me, who had the same kind of experiences, and how lonely that was …”

“Pulling someone into the spotlight, out of the shadows … I don’t feel that it casts aspersions on those who are already in the sunlight. It’s more like there can never be enough poetry, and there can never be enough heroes.”

“As a writer I couldn’t exist not being honest, totally honest, with the world, and with myself.”

To Love One Thing

from Psychology Today

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman

 muffins

When I was a kid, I used to love to sit at the top of my jungle gym and watch the goings on of the neighborhood. My fence cornered two others, and I could see four more backyards besides. I knew which couples got along and which were fighting. I knew where dogs hid their bones. I watched swimming pools dug and gardens planted and other kids swinging so high I thought they wanted to marry the sky. I could tell you what time each family ate dinner and when the moms made their kids sit down to homework. I was a human calendar that could have divulged the events of many days before they even unfolded.

Then one fall, shortly before Thanksgiving, something unexpected happened: A man in my neighborhood became enamored with baking muffins—blueberry, banana nut, ginger lemon, chocolate chip, jalapeño cheddar, onion walnut—you name it, he baked it. Oh how he came alive! This once very ordinary, nondescript man, who I’d never bothered to watch much before, was now lit with the fire of passion. He was radiant as he stood over the stovetop in his apron and mitts, face aglow with oven light and infatuation, waiting for his muffins to cool. He was radiant and happy, and he made others happy too. Neighborhood children began to hang around his yard and driveway to watch him bag up muffins at his worktable in the garage. Women stopped by with casseroles in hopes of receiving muffins in return. Everyone offered help when they saw him repairing a board in his fence or trimming back a hedge. The bottom line is that this man adored muffins, and through loving muffins he loved the world and the world loved him back.

Because it was close to Thanksgiving, I began to associate my muffin-baking neighbor with the concept of gratitude, and it occurred to me then, as it does now, that there are few greater ways to express thanks for these lives we have been given than to find something that thrills us and to spend our time doing it.

When we brim, when we shimmer, when we glow with love for something, anything, we become conduits of magic, and we ourselves become gifts to the world. I don’t care if it’s muffins or poetry or nursing or duct tape art or spelunking or carving idyllic picnic scenes into egg shells; when we love what we do, that love becomes an elixir for all who are lucky enough to know us. We are not only expressing our appreciation for our lives; we are giving others reason to be thankful for us too.

To read the rest of this post, visit Psychology Today.