Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Lucille Clifton, Poet Who Explored Intricacies of Black Lives, Dies at 73"

In light of our recent examinations of black poets and the varying views on writing about and portraying race, I thought this obituary on the late Lucille Clifton would be appropriate. The article discusses her literary style, her messages, and her exploration of racial issues. Any thoughts on she compares to Harlem Renaissance or New Negro writers? Is her style effective?

I thought her poem "My dream about being white" was particularly interesting and relevant to the discussion we had in class today:

"hey music and me only white, hair a flutter of fall leaves circling my perfect    line of a nose, no lips, no behind, hey white me and i’m wearing white history but there’s no future    in those clothes so i take them off and    wake up dancing."


  1. I thought it was interesting that the clips they included revolved around women's issues and not the matter of race at all. The obit even said she explored the intricacies of black lives. I wonder why they chose to included the clips that they did...

  2. Some of Ms. Clifton’s early work was published in “The Poetry of the Negro, 1746-1970” (Doubleday, 1970), edited by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps.

    There's at least some New Negro Renaissance energy here. Still, Alison, you've pointed to one of the problematics inherent in what some call "identity-based criticism." What is Clifton's duty as a black female poet? Should she write about "female issues"? Should she write about "black issues"? Can she write about both? And, at the end of the day, what exactly are theses "issues"? These are enormous, contentious questions that are at the heart of contemporary literary criticism, so it's great that many of you are starting to ask them. Keep it up!

  3. It's difficult to say how Lucille Clifton fit exactly into the Harlem Renaissance (HR) movement. It seems like she shares a great deal with Hurston in that she wrote in an extremely unique style that embodied the "make it new" aspect of modernism and the preservation of African American cultural identity. I feel as though, again like Hurston, older HR writers would have a negative opinion on Clifton's style. As the obituary said, she wrote in mostly all lower case and without punctuation; this informal writing style seems like it would not have sat well with Hughes.
    Overall, I enjoy the style of her poetry. I feel like it gets its message across without being too serious or pessimistic.