Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.
The blues are important primarily because they contain the cultural expression and the cultural response to blacks in America and to the situation that they find themselves in. And contained in the blues is a philosophical system at work. And as part of the oral tradition, this is a way of passing along information.
Most of black America is in housing projects, without jobs, living on welfare. And this is not the case in 'The Cosby Show,' because all the values in that household are strictly what I would call white American values.
I do - very specifically, I remember Bessie Smith; I used to collect 78 records that I would buy from the St Vincent de Paul store at five cents apiece, and I did this indiscriminately. I would just take whatever was there. And I listened to Patti Page and Walter Huston, 'September Song.'
The exact day I became a poet was April 1, 1965, the day I bought my first typewriter.
I think the blues is the best literature that we as blacks have created since we've been here. I call it our 'sacred book.' What I've attempted to do is to mine that field, to mine those cultural ideas and attitudes and give them to my characters.
The most valuable blacks are those in prison, those who have the warrior spirit, who had a sense of being African. They got for their women and children what they needed when all other avenues were closed to them.
How do we transform loss? ... Time's healing balm is essentially a hoax.
In 1977, I wrote a series of poems about a character, Black Bart, a former cattle rustler-turned-alchemist. A good friend, Claude Purdy, who is a stage director, suggested I turn the poems into a play.
Blues is the bedrock of everything I do. All the characters in my plays, their ideas and attitudes, the stance they adopt in the world, are all ideas and attitudes that are expressed in the blues.
From Borges, those wonderful gaucho stories from which I learned that you can be specific as to a time and place and culture and still have the work resonate with the universal themes of love, honor, duty, betrayal, etc. From Amiri Baraka, I learned that all art is political, although I don't write political plays.
My plays are ultimately about love, honor, duty, betrayal.
I think all in all, one thing a lot of plays seem to be saying is that we need to, as black Americans, to make a connection with our past in order to determine the kind of future we're going to have. In other words, we simply need to know who we are in relation to our historical presence in America.
I write for myself, and my goal is bringing that world and that experience of black Americans to life on the stage and giving it a space there.
I'm a De Niro fan. I went eleven years without seeing a movie; the last one before that, February 1980, was De Niro and Scorsese in 'Raging Bull,' and when I went back, it was 'Cape Fear,' with De Niro and Scorsese. I picked up right where I left off at.
I've seen some terrible plays, but I generally enjoy myself. One play I walked out of, I have a tremendous respect for the author. That was Robert Wilson, something called 'Network,' which consisted of Wilson sitting on a bunk, the dialogue of the movie 'Network' looped in while a chair on a rope went up and down.
Between speeches and awards, you can find something to do every other week. It's hard to write. Your focus gets splintered. Once you put one thing in your calendar, that month is gone.
I dropped out of school, but I didn't drop out of life. I would leave the house each morning and go to the main branch of the Carnegie Library in Oakland where they had all the books in the world... I felt suddenly liberated from the constraints of a pre-arranged curriculum that labored through one book in eight months.
I think of dying every day... At a certain age, you should be prepared to go at any time.
I don't look at our society today too much. My focus is still in the past, and part of the reason is because what I do - the wellspring of art, or what I do - l get from the blues. So I listen to the music of a particular period that I'm working on, and I think inside the music is clues to what is happening with the people.