Oprah Winfrey Reads From Song of Solomon

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“Toni Morrison was her words, she is her words, and her words were often confrontational. She spoke the unspoken. She probed the unexplored.” At a memorial celebrating the life and legacy of Toni Morrison held at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City, Oprah Winfrey speaks about her friendship with the late author and reads a powerful excerpt from Song of Solomon.

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Remembering Toni Morrison

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“Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names.” The life of Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Toni Morrison is remembered through this 2004 interview for CBS Sunday Morning highlighting what was most important to her: being a mother and a writer. Morrison died at the age of eighty-eight on August 5, 2019.

Poets on How They Got Started

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“When I did begin to make connections with poets, everything opened up for me,” says the late Holly Prado in this Poetry.LA video interviewing noted Southern California poets, including William Archila, Chiwan Choi, Marcia de la O, and Douglas Kearney, on how they got started in their writing careers. Prado died at the age of eighty-one on June 14, 2019.

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Binyavanga Wainaina

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“I want to live a life of free imagination.” In this video, Binyavanga Wainaina describes his dream for Africans to tell their own stories and be set free of certain traditional systems and structures. The Kenyan author and gay rights activist, who won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002, died at the age of forty-eight on May 21, 2019. For more from his work, read an excerpt from his memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place (Graywolf Press, 2011).

W. S. Merwin

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“Look at the old house in the dawn rain / all the flowers are forms of water…” In this excerpt from the documentary Even Though the Whole World Is Burning, the late W. S. Merwin reads his poem “Rain Light.” Merwin’s final collection, Garden Time (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), was featured in Page One in the September/October issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

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Meena Alexander

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“There’s something in the lyric moment that really ruptures the taken for granted-ness of the world.” Meena Alexander discusses her writing process, artistic collaborations, and the sensory experience of being a poet in this 2015 interview for CUNY TV. The author of five books of poetry, including most recently Atmospheric Embroidery (TriQuarterly Books, 2018), Alexander died at the age of sixty-seven on November 21, 2018.

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William Goldman

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“That was one of the freakiest experiences of my life. I was earning a living as a writer.” In this 2013 video for Open Road Media, screenwriter, playwright, and novelist William Goldman speaks about publishing his first novel, his experiences in the movie business, and his fame in dental offices. The author of the novels Marathon Man (Delacorte Press, 1974) and The Princess Bride (Harcourt Brace, 1973) died at the age of eighty-seven on November 16, 2018.

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Ntozake Shange

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“I was a happy young woman and I just happened to write poetry…” Ntozake Shange speaks about her surprise at the impact of her poetry and the film adaptation of her choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” in this interview with Reelblack at the Art Sanctuary of Philadelphia in 2010. The poet, novelist, and playwright died on October 27, 2018 at the age of seventy.

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