My pick for today’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday is from poet Lucille Clifton:
I believe life tends to happen in stages. There are certain bridges that we have crossed as stepping stones to get to where we are; a small portion of the bigger picture to lead us on. And even where we are today is of itself a mere foundation for where we will be tomorrow. As I think about this, I am recalled to Lucille’s quote and I am reminded of the compassion and the respect that we should have for one another because you never know what’s beyond those eyes. What they have seen, what they see, or what they have endured. And even our idea of what seems difficult or simple can play a different role in the life of someone else. I may have known homelessness but the man who lost his mother to cancer may experience a struggle that would have broken me, whereas my homelessness could have broken him. Makes me think about what each person has endured and how it has contributed to their strength. No matter how seemingly small it was something that we ourselves probably could not have faced if given the chance to do so.
About the Author:
What I noticed right away about Lucille is that she puts the sweet in “short and sweet”. Her poems are often not very long-winded, but they are short, almost speeding like, but not tasteless. Clifton is noted for saying much with few words. In a review of her work, Peggy Rosenthal commented, “The first thing that strikes us about Lucille Clifton’s poetry is what is missing: capitalization, punctuation, long and plentiful lines. We see a poetry so pared down that its spaces take on substance, become a shaping presence as much as the words themselves.”
In an American Poetry Review article about Clifton’s work, Robin Becker commented on Clifton’s lean style: “Clifton’s poetics of understatement—no capitalization, few strong stresses per line, many poems totaling fewer than twenty lines, the sharp rhetorical question—includes the essential only.”
In addition, Lucille Clifton’s work hinges largely on life, emphasizing endurance and strength with a focus particularly on the African American experience and family life. It is another reason I enjoy her poetry. In 2007, Clifton was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in which the judges remarked,
“One always feels the looming humaneness around Lucille Clifton’s poems—it is a moral quality that some poets have and some don’t.”
In addition to the Ruth Lilly prize, Clifton was the first author to have two books of poetry chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir, 1969-1980 and Next: New Poems (1987).
An additional plus is that Lucille was not just a poet, but she was also an author of children’s books, designed to help them to understand the world and enable an understanding of black heritage specifically.
In books like “All Us Come Cross the Water “(1973), Clifton raises awareness of African-American history and heritage. Her most famous creation, though, was Everett Anderson, an African-American boy living in a big city; an eight title series that won the Coretta Scott King Award. Connecting Clifton’s work as a children’s author to her poetry, Jocelyn K. Moody in the Oxford Companion to African American Literature wrote: “Like her poetry, Clifton’s short fiction extols the human capacity for love, rejuvenation, and transcendence over weakness and malevolence even as it exposes the myth of the American dream.”
And that’s it for this weeks episode of Writers Quote Wednesday!
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