Monday, February 15, 2010

"These Hips Are Magic Hips ..."

I was saddened to hear about the death of poet Lucille Clifton recently. Poetry is very hit or miss for me. Generally, I enjoy it, alot, especially when the writer is the one doing the reading. But I don't go out of my way to read poetry collections (Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni and Georgia Douglas Johnson are the exception) or attend readings. This could be a side effect from a few years before when I thought I was dropping in on a brief spoken word event, which, instead, turned out to be THREE HOURS of someone screaming, then whispering their words. I'm still recovering.

Anyway, I was familiar with Lucille Clifton because she lived in my old neighborhood. However, I wasn't exposed to her poetry until maybe a year or so ago during a fiction class. My professor gave us a copy of her poem 'Here rests', which basically summed up her sister's life and personality in a few lines. The poem resonated with me because in some ways her sister reminded me of my Aunt BG, who is now in a nursing home raising all sorts of hell. (Let's just say that one nurse learned the hard way about telling my aunt to put out a cigarette.) Here's the poem:

here rests

by Lucille Clifton

my sister Josephine
born july in '29
and dead these 15 years
who carried a book
on every stroll.

when daddy was dying
she left the streets
and moved back home
to tend him.

her pimp came too
her Diamond Dick
and they would take turns

a bible aloud through the house.
when you poem this
and you will she would say
remember the Book of Job.

happy birthday and hope
to you Josephine
one of the easts
most wanted.

may heaven be filled
with literate men
may they bed you
with respect.

With poetry, I'm a big believer in hearing it READ by the writer, versus reading it yourself. So here's some audio of her doing a 'Homage to my Hips', which is where the title for this blog post was taken. But don't stop there. Please check out 'Miss Rosie', 'Blessing the Boats' and 'Wishes for Sons'. And take a moment to see her in action. Rest in peace, Miss Lucille.


MaggieWags said...

I liked that last uh, paragraph. Is that what you call paragraphs in poetry? I forget....TX for posting on my blog...old ladies can be so opinionated. wait til you and i get to be 80..

Strength/Courage/Wisdom said...

I believe that's called a stanza, my friend. Yah, I wonder what we'll be like at 80. Whew!

Diasporique said...

My favorite poets are Hughes, Neruda, and Giovanni...I'll have to research Ms. Clifton! I don't usually prefer the poetry read aloud, believe it or not. It seems like everyone reads their poetry like Sonya Sanchez.

I love her poetry, but when she reads it "in that way", meh, not so much...

Thanks for sharing Ms. Clifton; I'll definitely have to check her out.