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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?"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lucille Clifton, a poet you should know

Things don't fall apart. Things hold. Lines connect in thin ways that last and last and lives become generations made out of pictures and words just kept."
--Lucille Clifton

"People wish to be poets more than they wish to write poetry, and that's a mistake. One should wish to celebrate more than one wishes to be celebrated."
--Lucille Clifton

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. Here's Clifton at a slave cemetary in South Carolina:

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

And Clifton brings down the house with "homage to my hips:"

homage to my hips

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved.
they go where they want to go.
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Drink from the cup of poetry. Go ahead: have some Lucille Clifton, a poet you should know.

4 comments:

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

Im still waiting on your book folk

MadMike said...

Beautiful stuff....

MacDaddy said...

Torrance: It's already written. I' doing the publishing thing now. More later.

Solomon said...

I'll never forget the first time I was introduced to Lucille Clifton, it was during a very dark time in my life, and I could really feel what she was saying in her poetry.

I saw in your profile that you've written a few books, have you written another one that you are in the process fo getting published?

You are a talented writer, that is great news, let us know when we might be able to check it out, I look forward to it.