Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Evolution of Black Poets

BOND: Tell me about the poem you wrote about the imaginary debate with Don Lee, leader of the Black Arts Movement, Haki Madhubuti.

DOVE: Yes.

BOND: What was that about?

DOVE: This is a very early poem. It was in my first book and it was called "Upon Meeting Don L. Lee in a Dream," and he was still Don L. Lee at that time and it's a surrealistic kind of poem, but it takes place obviously in a dream in which I confront him and say — It's really a poem of generations and saying you did it this way, those years are yours, and now I'm going to do it my way, and so it's almost Oedipal in that sense and I admired Don L. Lee's work and I read it and it really helped me, but I also was not that kind of person. I was not a person who could write those kind of poems. I came from different era and so that's what that poem was about and people have said to me, "Oh, man, why'd you have to dis Don, Haki?" I'm like, "I didn't dis him." This was just saying it's like a daughter to her father saying I'm going my way, you go your way, and the fact I have talked with Haki since then. We've met and the first time we met and there were a lot of people standing on the sidelines waiting for us to meet and we walked up to each other and he said, "I read the poem, it's fine with me. I know what you — " I said, "yeah." We just kind of said okay, that's not what it's about and we agreed and so we're friends.

BOND: But isn't it possible there's a Rita Dove way and a Don Lee way?

DOVE: Absolutely. Absolutely. The poem was more personal, sort of like this is your way, this is my way and now we're going to go and also insisting that there can be those two ways or three thousand ways to talk about what it is like to grow up black in America. There need to be all those different ways.