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Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lucille Clifton-- Part 1


Poet Lucille Clifton is the winner of the 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets. In the year 2000, she won the National Book Award for her poetry book, Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000. Two of her poetry collections (Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980, and, Next: New Poems), were chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She was elected Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets in 1999. She served as poet laureate of Maryland from 1974 to 1985.

Clifton’s writing is personal, but it immediately connects to readers and their lives.

The daddy is thinking about two of her poems: “she loved” and “at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south Carolina, 1989.”

As Clifton explains it in “The Language of Life,” Bill Moyer’s book about 34 poets, she is a widow of more than a decade. She said that, when her husband of some 30 years died suddenly, a part of her didn’t want to go on. Eventually, however, she decided to honor him and their good marriage by continuing to live; and she expressed her feelings in “she lived.”

she lived

after he died
what really happened is
she watched the days
bundle into thousands,
watched every act become
the history of others,
every bed more
narrow.
but even as the eyes of lovers
strained toward the milky young
she walked away
from the hole in the ground
deciding to live. and she lived.

But Clifton admits that this decision wasn’t an easy one-- that remaining present, staying calm and sane in a world filled with so much hate can be challenging and takes courage. She put it this way:

“…every day there are things that would make one hate. So you have mention them and as much as possible to not to hate. Every day there is something that would make you afraid, and you have to try not let it stop you…That’s where the honor is. Honor is not in not acting because you are afraid. Nor is there honor in acting when you are not afraid. But acting when you are afraid, that’s where the honor is.”

And Clifton’s attempt to talk to slaves at a cemetery on a former slave plantation, to get them to say their names, recalls poet Rita Dove standing in the middle of battlefields in France, communing with the spirits of black soldiers who fell there fighting for a freedom that they would never know at home.

at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989

among the rocks
at walnut grove
your silence drumming
into my bones,
tell me your names.

nobody mentioned slaves
and yet the curious tools
shine with your fingerprints.

nobody mentioned slaves
but somebody did this work
who had no guide, no stone,
who moulders under rock.

tell me your names,
tell me your bashful names
and I will testify.

the inventory lists ten slaves
but only men were recognized.

among the rocks
at walnut grove
some of these honored dead
were dark
some of these dark
were slaves
some of these slaves
were women
some of them did this
honored work.

tell me your names
foremothers, brothers,
tell me your dishonored names.
here lies
here lies
here lies
here lies
hear

Thank you, Lucille Clifton

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I liked what she said about honor, about living when you are afraid is where the honor is. I'm afraid every day in my neighborhood. I'm afraid of my neighbors. Cops too.

Anonymous said...

"Every day there is something that would make you afraid, and you have to try not let it stop you…That’s where the honor is. Honor is not in not acting because you are afraid. Nor is there honor in acting when you are not afraid. But acting when you are afraid, that’s where the honor is.”...

I, myself, am afraid almost everyday and this makes so much sense of it. Thank you Lucille, for articulating this!

Somebodies Friend said...

These peoms are very thought provoking, all I can say is this, I would be devastated if I can't say goodbye before I die.

Somebodies Friend said...

In the past all I did most of the time was worry what everyone else was doing, I was full of fear, but not the same fear I feel today. I experience fear every day, fearful I am going to make a decision that will affect someone else negatively.

My goals today are much different then in the past, so my fear seems to be different also. I am concerned with how my actions will affect others today, not how their actions will affect me. There is a huge difference in the two.

Honor comes with actions that are out of concern for others. If one thinks about themself all of the time there is no honor at all in that. caring and concern for your fellow black brothers and sisters, that is what it is all about. If we don't stick up for each other nobody else is going to do it for us.

MacDaddy said...

Somebodiesfriend: Yes, Clifton's poetry is thought-provoking. Deceptively so. And your point that honor lies in our concern for others really rings true. I know people who just can't stop talking about themselves: What they like or don't like; who they can't stand...I can't be around them for very long. There's no honor in one's inability to long beyond one's self.
anon: Yes, Clifton does articulate it well: acting wit5h fear is where the honor is.

Tan said...

Wow, Thanks for introducing me to her. The cemetary poem is haunting. She gives voice to the voiceless.

MacDaddy said...

tan: Your first time visiting my blog? If so, welcome. And, yes, this poem has a certain rhythmic and haunting quality to it. It stays inside you. Come again soon.

Somebodies Friend said...

At the Walnut Grove
Yes, I can see there were many slaves involved.
Most think they are unknown or unrecognised.
I see them all, it is so obvious now.
But why so much pain, the pain.
Any why so many lies, the lies.
The slaves, one and all, all were involved, yes, their lies.......
And the women, who could forget, the women.
They never get the respect they deserve.
I'm here to tell ya....
You deserve the most respect, step out of the shadows.
I love you!

MacDaddy said...

somebodiesfriend: Love it! Come again.

Somebodies Friend said...

Inheritance was to blame
Finally there is light at the Walnut Grove
Darkness will not ever fall again, at the Grove
The Slaves, the Light, the Grove
The Slaves were victims of their inheritance, at the Grove
No more, at the Grove
A new day has come, at the Grove
We have Spirits to see, crops to plant, souls to feed
At the Walnut Grove
Is the time right to plant the seed,
For the souls to feed, and the spirit, yes, the spirit to be seen
If the medicine man says it feels right
If the women of the Walnut Grove agree
Is the time right to plant the seed
We don’t want the crops to fail
With devastating consequences
And have Darkness Fall, for all time
At the Walnut Grove
Somebody Answer Me, Somebody

MacDaddy said...

somebodiesfriend: It's haunting and, at the same, uplifting...Projecting from this poem, Clifton is not just talking to former slaves. Through poetry, she is helping us to revisit history. She's saying let's talk to the ancestors. Let's know who we are and from whence we came...what we went through to get here.

Love it.

Somebodies Friend said...

Keeping the lines of communication open with the spirit of the ancestors, yes, that is key.
They can not act until the ancestors give their blessing, yes, their blessing.
There is too much at stake to rush into anything, there will be plenty of time after the anwsers come.
And the Spirit, must keep listening to the spirit, the truth.
There is honor in acting when afraid, but one still needs to be careful, not rush into something that could distroy everything...
Everything that they have worked so hard for...
There is no honor if the project fails...
Then there is only more dispair.
When the time is right, all will be right, and good!
God bless you for moving on after the death of your closest friend.
Lucille, I love you.

MacDaddy said...

Somebodiesfriend: Thanks for the wise words. And, yes, thanks for Lucille Clifton.

Somebodies Friend said...

I felt the spirit last night.
It is becoming clearer every day.
They do not need to be pure in every way.
Just not stamped, stamped and trampled on their back.
They can have known man.
They must never have been in the dark, they must not know the shadows.
It is Ok to know man, but not the dark man.
I can see in their eye, the spirit.
If it is not right, I can see it in their face, spiritless, dispare, confusion, hopelessness.....DARK... beware, the shadow people...
Now that I can see it is not easy to fool this one... with perfect vision.
Come again................

MacDaddy said...

Somebodiesfriedn: Those first three lines really do it for me. They introduce you to this haunting poem. But, technically, it introduces you to a poem of economy and clarity. Thank you.

Somebodies Friend said...

Chapter 4, Charity
Lewis says of the four loves.
If the transition does not work the man will vanish or become a demon.
When God introduces himself
The Half-Man can choose
whatever suits his fancy
whether it be a leper, a criminal or even a moron.
We are over the mountain.
The demon has lost all control?
Is there no worries?
The only one with anything to fear is the demon.
We can take back the souls?
Come again?