You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
—Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise” (via Y&Y)
Full text, with printable PDF version (h/t Wiley).
Between 2001 and 2008, I spoke with hundreds of lower- and middle-income people about the economy, work, schools, health care, and what they saw happening around them. When this research began, I was focusing on parents in low-wage families, documenting their accounts of working, being poor, and trying to keep children safe. But that changed when I spoke with Jonathan, a middle-aged “top manager” in a chain of grocery stores in the Midwest. I was asking him about the stresses of running a business that employed lots of low-wage parents. He acknowledged there were plenty. I was getting toward the end of the interview and he seemed to sense that, so he stopped me and asked, “Don’t you want to know what this is doing to me, too?”
At first I thought he was going to tell me his own financial problems. But he wanted to talk about being someone who makes enough to live “fairly comfortably” while having authority over hardworking parents who do not. He spoke of parents whom he got to know pretty well, who headed home each week with less than they needed to feed their families. Yes, he said, it is the “going wage”—America’s “market wage”—that doesn’t cover the market cost of basic human needs. Still, it didn’t seem right to Jonathan. He described how it changed his job, tainted it, to be supervising people who couldn’t get by on what he paid them.
Like Andrew and many others, Jonathan looked beyond the fact that it was legal for the market to set wages below what families need to survive. Does that make it right? Yes, of course it is lawful and “good for business,” and thus enthusiastically endorsed by a government increasingly run by corporate interests and their lobbyists. But when you look into the faces of people who are doing their work and trying to take care of their families, is it decent? And if not, who do you have to become to obediently go along with impoverishing workers and their families? Very different people from across the country told me that when you ignore injustice embedded in your society, you become part of it, complicit with what you consider immoral. And for some, this changed how they saw their role in the world and the work that they did.
—Lisa Dodson, “The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy” at Yes!, author of a book by the same name.
A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, ”Do you think I could be a writer?”
”Well,” the writer said, ”I don’t know… . Do you like sentences?”
The writer could see the student’s amazement. Sentences? Do I like sentences? I am 20 years old and do I like sentences? If he had liked sentences, of course, he could begin, like a joyful painter I knew. I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said, ”I liked the smell of the paint.
—Annie Dillard, “Write Till You Drop,” NYT.
Writers do not write what they want, they write what they can. When I was 21 I wanted to write like Kafka. But, unfortunately for me, I wrote like a script editor for The Simpsons who’d briefly joined a religious cult and then discovered Foucault. Such is life.
“Write like a girl.”
What could she do, bound as she was to the tyranny of silence? She dared not explain the girl to herself, dared not to say: ‘For your own sake you must go to Oxford, you’ll need every weapon your brain can give you; being what you are you’ll need every weapon.’
—Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, chapter 15. (via fuckyeahlesbianliterature)