Ishmael Reed

(1938 / Chattanooga, Tennessee)

Ishmael Reed Quotes

  • ''The Afrocentric exploration of the black past only scratches the surface. A full examination of the ancestry of those who are referred to in the newspapers as blacks and African Americans must include Europe and Native America.''
    Ishmael Reed (b. 1938), U.S. novelist, poet, essayist. Airing Dirty Laundry, "Distant Cousins," Addison-Wesley (1993).
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  • ''Writing poetry is the hard manual labor of the imagination.''
    Ishmael Reed (b. 1938), U.S. novelist, poet, essayist. Airing Dirty Laundry, "Gwendolyn Brooks: Poet," Addison-Wesley (1993).
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  • ''The descendants of Holy Roman Empire monarchies became feeble-minded in the twentieth century, and after World War I had been done in by the democracies; some were kept on to entertain the tourists, like the one they have in England.''
    Ishmael Reed (b. 1938), U.S. novelist, poet, essayist. repr. In Airing Dirty Laundry, Addison-Wesley (1993). "American Poetry: Is There a Center?" Black American Literature Forum (January 1978).
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  • ''Ethnic life in the United States has become a sort of contest like baseball in which the blacks are always the Chicago Cubs.''
    Ishmael Reed (b. 1938), U.S. novelist, poet, essayist. repr. In Writin' Is Fightin,' Atheneum (1988). "America's Color Bind: The Modeling of Minorities," San Francisco Examiner (November 1987).
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  • ''Free enterprise is not a bad idea and has produced art.''
    Ishmael Reed (b. 1938), U.S. novelist, poet, essayist. repr. In Shrovetide in Old New Orleans, "Image and Money" Doubleday (1978). "Blacks Must Put 'Filthy' Money to Work," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 26, 1974.
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  • ''At this time in American history, we are like ghosts talking gibberish through different dimensions, and stupid men do not make good make good mediums.''
    Ishmael Reed (b. 1938), U.S. novelist, poet, essayist. God Made Alaska for the Indians, Afterword, Garland Publishing (1982).
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  • ''American cultural institutions seem so bent on preserving the values of "Western civilization," the mythical "Whitetown," that we learn about one another's cultures the same way we learn about sex: in the streets.''
    Ishmael Reed (b. 1938), U.S. novelist, poet, essayist. repr. In Writin'Is Fightin,'Atheneum (1988). "Hymietown Revisited," California Magazine (October 1984).
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  • ''Currently, U.S. society has been encouraged by its political and subsidized mass-media intelligentsia to view U.S. life as a continual "morning in America" paradise, where the only social problems occur in the inner cities. Psychologists call this denial.''
    Ishmael Reed (b. 1938), U.S. novelist, poet, essayist. repr. In Airing Dirty Laundry, Addison-Wesley (1993). "Jess Mowry," Nation (September 21, 1992).
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  • ''The treatment of African and African American culture in our education was no different from their treatment in Tarzan movies.''
    Ishmael Reed (b. 1938), U.S. novelist, poet, essayist. repr. In Airing Dirty Laundry, Addison-Wesley (1993). "Reading, Writing, and Racism," Image (19 August 1990).
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  • ''I used to be a discipline problem, which caused me embarrassment until I realized that being a discipline problem in a racist society is sometimes an honor.''
    Ishmael Reed (b. 1938), U.S. novelist, poet, essayist. Shrovetide in Old New Orleans, Introduction, Doubleday (1978).
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Best Poem of Ishmael Reed

Beware: Do Not Read This Poem

tonite, thriller was
about an old woman, so vain she
surrounded herself with
many mirrors
it got so bad that finally she
locked herself indoors & her
whole life became the
mirrors
one day the villagers broke
into her house, but she was too
swift for them. she disappeared
into a mirror
each tenant who bought the house
after that, lost a loved one to
the old woman in the mirror:
first a little girl
then a young woman
then the young woman's husband
the hunger of this poem is legendary
it has taken in many victims
back off from this ...

Read the full of Beware: Do Not Read This Poem

American Airlines Sutra

put yr cup on my tray
the stewardess said 40,000
feet up. (well i've
never done it that way. what
have i got to lose.)

i climb into a cab & the
woman driver is singing
along with Frank Sinatra
"how was your flight coming in?"

(another one. these americans,
only one thing on their
minds).