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Alice Walker talks poetry at Guernica

April 1, 2010 | 12:02 pm

Alicewalker As National Poetry Month kicks off Thursday, it seems only fitting that Alice Walker, best known for her novel "The Color Purple," is all about writing poems these days. She tells Guernica:

At this point in my life, I seem to be returning to poetry, my first love. Over the past year, I’ve written a book of poems, "Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: A Year of Poems." These came at a rate of several a week. Sometimes several came on the same day, like surprise guests.

In the interview, Walker talks about her unique spiritual philosophy -- a personal blend with a lot of Buddhism -- and her reasons for traveling to Gaza and to India.

While in New Delhi, I will want to pay my respects to Mahatma Gandhi. I believe I’m to give a talk at the Gandhi Institute there. ... I want to visit India to see what it was that Gandhi loved, understood, and accepted about Indians -- so much so that he endangered his life to live among them and to teach and lead. That [Martin Luther King Jr.] thought us worthy of any sacrifice was clear to me as a student, and moved me to tears. How does he know? I wondered. How does he continue to believe in us? Who are we, after all? After four hundred years of slavery and post-enslavement degradation, we were, far too many of us, quite a wreck. But with those extraordinarily wise eyes of his, he saw us beyond our wreckage and with compassion held us dear. Knowing the divine within himself, he saw it in us. Namaste!

Walker has recently completed her first audio-book version of "The Color Purple." Although she had a cold and was coughing and sneezing, she said, she was determined to get the recording completed.

The people in the book: ancestors, characters, spirits, whatever I’ve called them at different times, came through wonderfully. They are people who show up! And hold up! It was truly magical. I worked for four hours a day for four days and they were as present as when they first appeared to me in the early nineteen eighties.

Fans of Alice Walker should know that she's been blogging -- particularly about her chickens -- at AliceWalkerblog.com.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Alice Walker in 2004. Credit: Noah Berger Photography / Random House Publishing Group