Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

The Poet's Bond to Humanity

BOND: Now having admitted that you are a leader, how does leadership as the poet, not the Poet Laureate, but the poet, the notable poet, different and I know it's different, from the leadership in a musical ensemble or even in the cheerleading squad or the majorettes.

DOVE: Majorettes and cheerleaders don't mix.

BOND: I know they don't mix.

DOVE: Don't mix them up. [laughs]

BOND: But does this differ? The other things seemed like a group effort; there're other people doing this, too, but being a poet is solitary.

DOVE: Yes, being a poet is solitary and even the act of reading poetry is a solitary thing. It's an intimate thing. The poet meets the reader on the page, and yet there's also a very public aspect of it when I go and give a reading or when I go and give an interview about poetry, so it's an interesting mix of the public and the private, but it is intensely individual. I stand up as the poet for whatever I'm going to say and I own it and I own up to myself. There's no group behind me. The person who reads it then if they accept that, then there's this communion going on between the two of us, so there's no hiding behind a group. Whenever I talk about poetry, whenever I read poetry in front of a group, I feel that I am opening myself to them and when I say myself, I don't mean just all of my tiny frustrations or anything like that. I mean a very complex mix of every interesting and complicated emotions that human beings have. I mean me as a black person, as a woman, as a human being, as an American. All of these things, but I'm saying here it is. Now, can you — Is this something that relates to something in you and that's intensely personal. That's stepping right out there on the 50-yard line all by yourself.

BOND: But you do it.

DOVE: Yeah.

BOND: And do it well.

DOVE: Well, thank you. But I do it also because others have done it for me. Every time I read a poem, I feel that way, too, or read a wonderful novel. It's that the courage that the writer has had to explore the complicated and uncomfortable things in life, which are also part of being a human being. It's insistence on — And I also feel — I think that for me to have someone, a perfect stranger say, that they have felt the same way, too, and this perfect stranger may be a white man from rural Texas. That's an incredible victory for the human race and for civil rights and all of that to acknowledge, to realize that different skin colors, different classes, we're all human beings. This is where civil liberties and mutual respect begin.