My TROP interview with Aisha Sabatini Sloan led me to an interview with Maya Angelou. After I read the interview with Maya Angelou, I decided it was time to read “An Interview: Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde” in Sister Outsider.
I’ve been meaning to read this interview for six years. I remember buying the book used at Walden Pond Books in Oakland in 2007. I had just broken up with my boyfriend and moved into an apartment in Oakland with a German woman I found on Craigslist.
Not too long after I moved into the apartment, I walked to the bookstore and came out holding books by bell hooks, Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde. I looked down at the books and thought, I guess this is what happens when you break up with your boyfriend. You go to the feminist literature.
Six years later, I read the interview in Sister Outsider and I want to say a couple of things about that. The first thing I want to say is that there is no rush in getting to all those books on your bookcase(s). It may take you six years or ten years to get to them and that’s okay. They’re on your shelf if you need them or want them. To worry or feel guilty about not reading these books seems like a waste of your time.
The other thing I want to say is that the interview in Sister Outsider is now one of my top-five interviews of all time. I looked for a free, online version of the interview for you–didn’t find it–and stumbled upon Sister Acts: On Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde and Others. In this Los Angeles Review of Books article, Susan L. Moore provides a summary of the interview between Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich, and draws connections between second-wave feminism, lesbianism, and poetry. Moore writes, “For a generation of women to whom ‘finding voice,’ ‘breaking silence,’ and ‘speaking out’ were not just powerful metaphors but conscious political strategies, poetry was almost an obligation, one’s feminist duty, a lesbian rite of passage.”
At the end of my interview with Aisha Sabatini Sloan, she says, “It was much more validating than I expected to have a publisher send me a contract. I experienced six months of calm bliss. My life was literally quieter. I think that before that, not taking myself seriously had a weird impact on my writing. It warped it a little, like someone whose voice gets quieter as they speak.”
In the interview with Audre Lorde, she says, “I had overdone it. I was too sick to get up, and Ed answered the phone. It was Galen Williams from the Poetry Center asking if I’d like to go as a poet-in-residence to Tougaloo, a Black College in Mississippi…My energy was at such a low ebb that I couldn’t see how. It was very frightening to me, the idea of somebody responding to me as a poet.”
Whenever someone takes me seriously as a writer, I feel frightened. I feel a little sick. I used to let my fear dictate my response and my choices but in the last year or so, I don’t. I don’t because I think a lot about how the body is meant to fall apart. I don’t just think about it, I feel it because I have a chronic illness. In the interview with Maya Angelou, she says, “You’d be surprised what coming to grips with the fact that you will die does for you.”