I'm sure a lot of elegies, eulogies, and encomiums are being written for Lucille Clifton right about now. And I'm sure I don't have much to add. Clifton's poetry was pretty important to me about 20 years ago, but, regrettably, I hadn't read much of her stuff since then. When I heard of her passing tonight, I went back and read some of her poems - aloud, which is, I think, how they ought to be read. What an ear! Both the aural music and the emotional pitch are dead-on. The much-anthologized "reply" is a brilliant response to those who see "documentary poetry" as being crudely mimetic. And it's pretty amazing that a twentieth-century poet could pull off a soliloquy of Lucifer to God (in "brothers"):
come coil with me
here in creation's bed
among the twigs and ribbons
of the past. i have grown old
remembering this garden,
the hum of the great cats
moving into language, the sweet
fume of the man's rib
as it rose up and began to walk.
These lines contain rather more high seriousness than most of the lyric verse I read these days, which makes it all the more remarkable that it binds my attention as it does.
My dad is 83 tomorrow. Lucille, you were robbed. So were we.
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15 hours ago