What made me think that my poetry could add to the social and political transformations going on at the time, I don't know. And, why poetry? Because I thought then, and still do, that poetry was/is some kind of perfect speech, some way at getting at the core of things, their true meanings; some kind of honest submission to life. Why writing at all? Because somehow I figured out that words were durable, expansive, perhaps because I had understood their effects in creating what I can in another work, the "fictions" of Africans in the New World. And I understood that these fictions took place regardless of the actual, the real lives lived. Perhaps even back then as a child, a teenager, it seemed to me compelling to rewrite these fictions. In a poem in my work No Language is Neutral I called these fictions "... the hard gossip of race that inhabits these roads." And I felt that this hard gossip could only be confronted by a kind of perfect speech.
So in the seventies I went to work to learn to be a poet. There was a common understanding back then in the circles I travelled that the civil rights and human rights movement of the period needed poets; it needed preachers, organizers, workers, thinkers and poets. Again, I was lucky. To be part of a social movement, which considered poets essential, was thrilling. As we said back then, poetry was also supposed to be put to the defence of the people. The poet and revolutionary Che Guevara once said, Déjeme decirle, a riesgo de parecer ridículo, que el revolucionario verdadero está guiado por grandes sentimientos de amor. (At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.) The well of this sentence I pondered on many nights. It watered my poetry, it helped me to think about the need for a revolution at the level of human consciousness, and it helped me to think about poetry's job in tending to the wrecked and brutalized consciousness of oppressed peoples.
- Dionne Brand, from her lecture A Kind of Perfect Speech, as published in a chapbook of the same name (Institute for Coastal Research, 2008).