I was sitting yesterday in a bookstore cafe with poet Ginny Crawford, several books of Lucille Clifton's poetry filling our small table. Then I went hunting for Clifton's newly released Collected Poems, which just about collapsed our table. It is a book as mighty, inside and out, as Clifton was in life.
|Celebrating the recent publication of |
Clifton's mammoth Collected Poems.
Ginny and I are planning an event for this month's Baltimore Book Festival (9/28-30) -- a tribute to Clifton's work both as a poet and as an active, generous member of the literary community. She lived here, in Columbia, Maryland, and taught at St. Mary's College in the southern part of the state.
|Me, CityLit Project's Gregg Wilhelm, and|
Ginny Crawford at the 2011 Baltimore Book Festival.
A panel of local poets and authors who knew and worked with Lucille Clifton discuss her poetry and legacy. Featuring: poet Linda Joy Burke, Little Patuxent Review contributing editor Susan Thornton Hobby, Edgar Silex and Lucille's daughter, Alexia Clifton. Moderated by poet Virginia Crawford and LPR editor Laura Shovan. The panel will include readings of Clifton’s poems from the newly released The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010. Attendees may be invited to write on-the-spot poems in response to Clifton’s work. This program is presented as part of the 100,000 Poets for Change annual global event.
Saturday, September 29, 12-1:30 PM in the CityLit Tent.
Clifton died in 2010 and our local community misses her a great deal, so there is a lot of positive energy around this event.
Ginny and I will be inviting attendees to write poems using first lines of Clifton's work as a prompt, something I invite you to try at home.
Going through the Collected Works, there were so many evocative first lines to use that we had to stop at forty. As Ginny and I scanned the poems, we stopped and read, shared favorite pieces and surprises -- again, more poems than you can imagine.
For those of you who teach older children, middle and high school, I am suggesting Clifton's poem, "Miss Rosie" as a model piece.
Many teens like to write about social issues because they are newly awake to the larger world. In judging teen poetry contests, I've read my share of poems about the homeless. What's usually missing, and what Clifton does so well, is the specificity that takes a problem and invites the reader to see an individual person.
|by Lucille Clifton|
when I watch you wrapped up like garbage sitting, surrounded by the smell of too old potato peels or when I watch you in your old man's shoes with the little toe cut out sitting, waiting for your mind like next week's grocery I say when I watch you you wet brown bag of a woman
Like me, Ginny is a poet-in-the-schools for the Maryland State Arts Council. We came across a Clifton poem with this title, "We Do Not Know Very Much About Lucille's Inner Life."
Wow. What a great prompt for middle and high schoolers, "Insert your own name and go with it."
Be brave if you do this prompt with your students. This is a BIG invitation to speak the truth. That's what Lucille Clifton was all about. She spoke the truth through her poetry. She spoke difficult things in a way that invited everyone to listen and to be brave themselves.
Stop by Katya's place at Write. Sketch. Repeat. for more Poetry Friday posts.