Today, Lucille Clifton died. I was introduced to her poetry in high school and at first didn’t like it. It feels funny to admit that now. Anyway, for some reason I went with a group from school to hear her read in Marygrove College and I fell in love. I must have been about fifteen or sixteen and I was still new to writing poetry. After I heard her speak and read, I laughed about not liking her writing at first. The only criticism I had was ‘too quiet’.
I’m sure she was the first author whose reading I attended. I remember thinking that she looks and sounds like a next door neighbor. There was nothing mysterious about her, nothing flashy. Her voice wasn’t the voice of God. Nope. She was this older woman who read magnificent poetry, understood irony and knew her way around a joke. She also taught me that poets don’t have to be this fan club type of deal. Not every poet is a slam poet(nothing against slam poets) and sometimes your favorite poem can read in your speaking tone. And it’s possible to fall under the charm of an older black woman with short hair and a simple outfit.
I have one book by her. “good woman: poems and a memoir”. This book is usually the one I open and read when I’m feeling at my most desperate or my most sad. I’m not saying I read a poem and like magic I’m cheered. Nope. Just comforted.
So thank you.