Interviewer: Can you relate the relevance and importance of activating words in the community to our world today and horrifying news about war, refugees, terrorist acts, mass shootings, racial injustice, etc.?
Me: For a long time I struggled with the thought that, as a writer, I couldn’t do anything or change anything. It’s taken me a lifetime to understand that some of us are put on this earth to be witnesses and to speak about what we see. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten both more comfortable with this role and more willing to use it publicly. Poets are artists of observation and ambiguity. We seen black and white, right and wrong, but we are surrounded by politicians and demagogues who are constantly feeding us their narrow notions as truth. We are surrounded by neighbors who accept these notions, for reasons of fear, mostly. So poets must stay alert to the world, and vulnerable to it. And we must keep speaking about what we see.
This barely says what I am trying to say, and I fear it sounds smarmy and pat. But what else can I do but keep watching and talking? Telephoning my senators and demonstrating in the streets are equally useless responses. Working as a doctor might be more helpful, but few of us know how to be doctors. Giving lots of money is also helpful if one has a lot of money to give. But neither health care nor donations solve the basic problem of endemic cruelty and fear.