Tuesday, April 8, 2008

notes on Lucille Clifton

Sunday was a wonderful night, listening to Lucille Clifton read her poetry and tell stories from her life. I was enchanted by her presence and enjoyed her being present in the space with us. Her energy was honest and, even though tired by her own admission, she filled the room with her words and we all listened.

There were many gems I heard that night. Some of them poetry. Some of them stories from her life. Some of them pieces of wisdom. I am still digesting everything I heard and I can still hear her voice. So, rather than give a review of her work, I've decided to (at least for now) share some of the things I noticed and wrote down. We'll see if they are as potent today as they were then - and if I wrote down enough to make sense of what I wrote *wink.

The first quote is from Ursula LeGuin's introduction of Lucille Clifton: "She brings it into focus for those of us who couldn't see it otherwise."

Lucille Clifton was poet laureate of Maryland for 10 years. When she was offered the title, she "asked the governor if he'd read anything I wrote and he said, 'no.' I thought, 'this could work!'."

She talked a lot about naming. How people think we have the duty, obligation - the right - to name the world around us. And even more, that we have the arrogance to think that our name is The Name it should be known as.

"Speculation is why I write."

This was once piece of a line from a poem which just struck me and so I wrote it down. I love it, still! "...consider my pockets..."

On "why I write": "My writing is to get people to notice. All people should be noticed."

Someone in the audience asked her for advice to women who are mothers and writers. Her answer: "aren't we all a lot of things?"

Another bit of advice in response to a different question: "Do the best you can with more than one thing."

She was asked about how she writes, advice to writers ... She said she does not write every day. She goes long periods sometimes without writing. Right now she is working on a book, the cover and book design are done, and she is not writing. But when she writes, she writes a lot.

She also said that "poems know that I will say yes to them, and so they come."

Writing is also her lifeline. She didn't say it in quite those words. But she did say it in many words. What she did say was, "If I'm writing, everything is okay."

Thank you, Lucille Clifton, for sharing a couple hours with us and sharing your words.

A brief note in case you're wondering:
the color values chart is a nod to Lucille's
writing about naming and about (skin) color.