13 February 2010


June 27,1936-February 13, 2010

My daughter Kamilah, a poet, introduced me to Ms. Clifton several years ago and I instantly became a devout student of her poetry.  She was from Buffalo, N.Y. about 76 miles from Rochester, my hometown.  Upon first glance she resembled some members of my step-father's extended family and I jokingly inquired about kinship. There is this quirk in human nature in which we want to be personally associated with those whom we feel are gifted and wise.  This esteemed poetess has received numerous accolades and awards; among them, The National Book Award for "Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1900-2000" and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1988. She was also a former poet laureate of Maryland. 

Ms. Clifton's style was skilled and precise as if her words were golden nuggets.  One of her works in VOICES speaks to her ability to express an issue in a unique and simplistic way with profound implications.  There is this scenario of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and Cream of Wheat walking the aisles of a grocery store after hours.  One gets the impression that they are amused by how they are portrayed, however, the latter is far more perplexed by their humanity upstaged by a product. He scoffs at an alleged name he was given although on the box he's just Cream of Wheat.  After their stroll, they return to their boxes.
 we pose and smile i simmer
to myself what is my name
With charm, grace and wit she enlightens us on how society promotes stereotypical images for commodity exchange on ethnic groups/classes which also lends to our biases as well as our "endearments". 

We have of late had many of the "greats" transition; some of whom I've celebrated on my blog.  Although, we understand the cycle of life and that  we're not always ready for them to leave us--we must cherish that they were here and the impact they had while on this journey called life. My daughter, Kamilah sent a picture of her, a colleague/friend Rachel and Ms. Clifton with praiseworthy and laudatory comments about her grace, friendliness and lack of pretensions. Don't you just love it when highly evolved and talented people wear their intelligence well.

I truly appreciate this photo and the fact that my daughter met and interacted  with one of the most treasured poets of our time. Just maybe Ms. Clifton will get to hug Gwendolyn Brooks, another giant in the field as she acclimates to the other side.  Poetic legacies!

1 comment:

Kamilah said...

Really lovely remembrance, Mom...thank you. She must be smiling wherever she is, feeling all of the love, admiration and gratitude for her work and her spirit!

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