Alice Walker told me I should write more poems. Well, not me only (though I am enjoying taking it personally) but all of us, if we want to. Also, we should dance more.
She’s been angry at some of what she’s seen in U.S. politics and in our world, including how we are treating our planet and how we are raising our children. She thinks writing poetry, in whatever version we make it, is one of the only ways to intervene peacefully and powerfully in the world today.
I recently spent several hours with Walker in the serene northern Michigan town of Traverse City. We were both there to speak at the National Writers Series, and I asked if she would do an interview with us for To the Best of Our Knowledge, borrowing a studio from Interlochen Public Radio. Walker’s publicist said she would, but they would need transportation. So my friend Lisa volunteered, cleaned out her family van and stocked it with water and snacks to drive Alice to the studio.
I felt grateful for the drive to and from, flanking the actual interview, a little over a half hour each way — that was a lot of time to talk with Alice. At 74, Walker seems small but sturdy, and that day was wearing turquoise jewelry, a long silver down coat and sparkly nail polish. Her voice is quiet and melodious, ethereal and wise even beyond her years. I wondered if as a child she had sounded so knowing.
She said she read Angie Thomas’s “The Hate U Give” with her grandson and recommends reading the book and then seeing the movie, both of which she loved. She was worried about her home in Mexico, with a hurricane approaching. She has found great joy in having a little dog, Charlie, in her life.
We talked about sickness, which we both had gone through, and she told me a story about being so ill she couldn’t stand up, but making herself go to a protest. Walker said forcing her body to work made it come back to life again, as if her immune system had been re-ignited. “If you ever get sick again, that is what you should do,” she said.
I will, and I’m going to write some poetry, too.