what did i see to be except myself?
February 12, 2020 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Lucille Clifton honored strength, resilience, hope, and beauty in hundreds of poems over her long career. She received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 2007, honoring a living U.S. poet whose "lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition," and the Robert Frost Medal for lifetime achievement from the Poetry Society of America. She was Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1979 to 1985. posted by kristi (9 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Oh wow, thanks for sharing. I wasn't familiar with Clifton and I really love her work. I especially love this poem: my dream about being white
posted by arabidopsis at 9:10 AM on February 12

One of my all time favorites. I remember exactly where I was sitting the first time I read a Clifton poem and thought poetry can be like this. That was:
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!
That exclamation point is just everything.
posted by sallybrown at 9:11 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]

I absolutely LOVE Lucille Clifton! Thanks for sharing this.

I keep a copy of "won't you celebrate with me" pinned to my cubicle wall at work. My autographed copy of The Book of Light is one of my treasures. So glad I was able to attend a reading before she passed.

From 'brothers"


come coil with me
here in creation’s bed
among the twigs and ribbons
of the past. i have grown old
remembering the 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.
it was all glory then,
the winged creatures leaping
like angels, the oceans claiming
their own. let us rest here a time
like two old brothers
who watched it happen and wondered
what it meant.
posted by shoesietart at 10:23 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]

One of my favorite Lucille Clifton poems:

wishes for sons

i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
i wish them no 7-11.

i wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
i wish them one week late.

later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn't believe. let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.

let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.
posted by flod at 11:45 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]

Thank you for putting this together. Several of my favorites have been shared but I will just add this one:


who would believe them winged
who would believe they could be

beautiful who would believe
they could fall so in love with mortals

that they would attach themselves
as scars attach and ride the skin

sometimes we hear them in our dreams
rattling their skulls clicking their bony fingers

envying our crackling hair
our spice filled flesh

they have heard me beseeching
as I whispered into my own

cupped hands enough not me again
enough but who can distinguish

one human voice
amid such choruses of desire
posted by diamondsky at 4:23 PM on February 12

I can't help but also share one of my favorites:

love rejected
hurts so much more
than love rejecting;
they act like they don’t love their country
what it is
is they found out
their country don’t love them.
posted by avoision at 8:21 PM on February 13

Thank you for posting this and all the poems in the thread. I knew of her but had never actually dug into her poems, and they're wonderful.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:56 PM on February 13

Wonderful poet -- thank you for posting.

As Angel Nafis tweeted: rest in peace eternal, queen. we love you so so so much. we miss you. we carry you. we need you. we am you.
posted by wicked_sassy at 5:37 AM on February 14

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