Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A poetry album by Lucille Clifton

March is Women's History Month and here, today, I celebrate by acknowledging a special woman, Lucille Clifton (1936-2010).  From 1979–1985 Clifton served as Poet Laureate of Maryland.  Her poetry celebrates both her African-American heritage and her womanhood.  Here is "album," a poem in Clifton's spare and un-capitalized style -- and containing a few numbers to help us keep track of the times that are changing.

album     by Lucille Clifton

                    for lucille chan hall

1      it is 1939
       our mothers are turning our hair
       around rags.
       our mothers
       have filled our shirley temple cups.
       we drink it all.

2     1939 again.
       our shirley temple curls.
       shirley yellow.
       shirley black.
       our colors are fading.

3     1958 and 9.
       we have dropped daughters
       afrikan and chinese.
       we think
       they will be beautiful.
       we think
       they will become themselves.

4     it is 1985.
       she is.
       she is.
       they are.
This poem is found on my shelf in Blessing the Boats:  New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 (BOA Editions, 2000).  Here is a link to Clifton reading another fine poem (though without any mathematical connection) "won't you celebrate with me?" 

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