Monday, May 4, 2009

Lucille Clifton: Blues in the Night

National Poetry Month seems to have spilled over into May as I'm still getting "Poem-A-Day" emails and it's a good thing, too. Since there was, at best, a handful of poems worth writing home about, it was refreshing to see this powerful, moving, mysterious piece by Lucille Clifton, one of our finest bringers of the word:

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
they have heard me beseeching

as i whispered into my own
cupped hands enough not me again

but who can distinguish
one human voice

amid such choruses
of desire
Lucille Clifton

Here is a video of Clifton reading two poems, "Aunt Jemima" and "Afterblues" at the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival:


Today is the anniversary of the passing of blues harp great, Paul Butterfield. Here he works out on the classic Charles Brown version of "Driftin' Blues."

the night is long
my bottle, empty
my house, set apart
translated by David Lanoue



L. Espenmiller said...

Thank you for this haunting, powerful poem by Lucille Clifton. I have not read this one. Is it new? I have every poetry collection Lucille has brought forth. I was lucky to study with her at the Squaw Valley Community of Writer's poetry program in 1995. We formed a bond during that week - she was generous with me, so attentive, caring, and supportive of what I was trying to do at the time. It is because of Lucille's poetry, that I wanted to write poetry, she and (early) Sharon Olds blew me away when I found them and their exquisite work in the 90's. Maybe Lucille has a new collection out, of which I'm not aware - I think I would remember this poem. The last book I bought of hers was Mercy. Anyway, thank you for sharing this poem. She is an amazing woman and poet.

Charles Gramlich said...

Great poem, great blues.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Hey, Lisa,

Thanks for the note. Very nice to have the reconnect here. I see from the "Poem-A-Day" webpage

that the Clifton poem comes from a collection entitled "Voices," which came out last November. Here it is:

I always enjoy her work. It is so nice to hear she makes an effort to connect and inspire people, too.

Charles, thanks, always glad when something strikes home ...