Sail Through This To That

Lucille Clifton (1936 – 2010)

I don’t write out of what I know; I write out of what I wonder. I think most artists create art in order to explore, not to give the answers. Poetry and art are not about answers to me; they are about questions.

Lucille Clifton

Blessing the Boats

by Lucille Clifton

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your
sail through this to that

Lucille Clifton had the gift of sparse words imparting vast meaning.   Her poetry is straightforward yet complex.   Discovered by Langston Hughes through a mutual friend in New York, she succeeded on the strength of her talent and bright spirit.  Clifton was an educator, children’s book author, poet, engaging speaker and civil rights leader.  Clifton advanced ideas of equity through her art and educational leadership.  

There is a motherly savviness to some of Clifton’s poetry that reassures me, good naturedly cajoles, lulls me into surprises and insight, while letting me wander about breezily in her words.  I marvel at her imagery and her welcoming, supportive spirit.   

Blessing The Boats, the title of her award winning anthology, is a remarkable poem in that it has no moorings of where you feel required as a reader to start or stop.   I can chose to see it as a loop that I can plug into almost anywhere. 

Sometimes I like to read a poem backwards.  Not all poets work lend themselves to this, but it can be an interesting technique to enter a poem and the poets ideas in a different way.   By reading it in reverse sequence, it allows me to focus on individual lines and not worry about trying to understand the whole of poem. Try reading Clifton’s Blessing the Boats from the bottom to the top, and see what rises on your internal wavelengths.  What line sticks out in your mind?  Is it a different line than you noticed the first time reading it through? 

“Oh Antic God”

by Lucille Clifton

oh antic God
return to me
my mother in her thirties
leaned across the front porch
the huge pillow of her breasts
pressing against the rail
summoning me in for bed.
I am almost the dead woman’s age times two.
I can barely recall her song
the scent of her hands
though her wild hair scratches my dreams
at night.   return to me, oh Lord of then
and now, my mother’s calling,
her young voice humming my name.

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A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.

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