Category Archives: Clifton (Lucille)

Murphy: Something Funny in Everything

Eddie Murphy, who as a young comedian helped save Saturday Night, returned for the show’s 40th celebration. A Lucille Clifton poem draws an interesting distinction between him and Richard Pryor.

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Clifton Brings Black History Alive

Lucille Clifton insists on the telling the historical truth, even if it makes whites uncomfortable.

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Against Race Oppression, Turn to Love

While some of Lucille Clifton’s race poems have an edge, in the end she always comes back to love.

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Grendel in Paris

As with other mass killings, “Beowulf” has lessons for the Paris massacre. Defoe and Rabelais, meanwhile, give us insight in the targeted satirical journal “Charlie Hebdo.”

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The Peace of Wild Things

My Intro to Literature class explored how a disconnect from nature leads to existential anguish while opening themselves up to nature provides spiritual nourishment.

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The Jordan River Continues to Inspire

The River Jordan, an inspiring image for American slaves, has worked it was into contemporary African American poems, including those of Lucille Clifton.

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Rituals of Commencement

Robert Creeley’s graduation poem captures both the predictability and the unpredictability of young people going forth into the world.

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For Sterling, Waves Came Crashing In

Collective player anger may have led to the NBA’s harsh punishment for Clippers owner Don Sterling. Lucille Clifton has a poem about the power of collective black action.

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the dance of Jesus music holds the air

These Lucille Clifton poems usher us from Lent into Easter.

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Looking Back to a Time When Hope Waved

Lucille Clifton’s poem on looks back to a time of hope–before the Kennedy assassination.

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Two Parables Involving Falling Leaves

Scott Bates and Lucille Clifton find poetic lessons in falling leaves.

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Using Lucille Clifton to Defend the Arts

There’s a decline in English majors at elite universities. We use a Lucille Clifton poem to respond.

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Keeping the Civil Rights Dream Alive

Great Civil Rights moments are great. Movements are better.

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Poetry in the Commencement Ceremony

Our Commencement was jolted by a reading of Martin Espada’s “Imagine the Angels of Bread.”

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Answer the Door, the Truth Is Knocking

Willa Cather and Lucille Clifton were quoted in our end-of-the-year awards ceremony last week.

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Lessons of a Bird Killed by a Window

Encountering a dead bird outside my window, I recalled a Lucille Clifton poem on the subject that draws a powerful social message.

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It Is Your Own Lush Self You Hunger For

In her Garden of Eden poems, Lucille Clifton sees heaven as a stifling morality that both Eve and Satan are trying to break through. Apples in this drama are symbols of female sensuality.

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Leadership 101: Grade Obama

Andrew Sullivan says that we should not look for a savior in gay rights issues because, in America, “we save ourselves.” The sentiment also appears in a Lucille Clifton poem that appeared following the assassination of Martin Luther King.

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Golf Suddenly Seems Green Again

Something happened in the course of the recent U. S. Open tournament. Lucille Clifton’s poem is about the “damn wonder” of renewal, and golf is catching a whiff of something fresh in the boy-faced Rory McIlroy.

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The Green of Jesus Is Breaking the Ground

According to the church calendar, we are still in the Easter season,and the hope of the resurrection continues to be mirrored in beautiful May days. Lucille Clifton intermingles the spirituality of religion and the sensuality of life as well as any poet I know. Here’s a poem in her Jesus series. As far as she’s concerned, there’s no conflict between religious ecstasy and the sights and sounds of spring or the wonderful smells emanating from people’s kitchens and the music from their radios.

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Answer the Door, Child–Truth is Knocking

We had our major awards ceremony this past Saturday. As is tradition, we began with a poem by Lucille Clifton that she allowed us to adapt slightly for the occasion.Our president then gave one of his patented speeches, this one centered on Plato’s Meno. It was exactly what I wanted our students to hear: a full-blown defense of the liberal arts.

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Which Is Deeper, Love or Self?

I haven’t talked in a while about my friend Alan, who has experienced cancerous tumors in his neck, eyelid, lungs and brain. In each case they were either removed or radiated, allowing us to go on hoping that all would be well. Alan, after all, has already lived a year and a half longer than […]

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Blaming Loved Ones in the Face of Death

Edvard Munch, The Sick Child  Imagine the following situation. A couple has been married for decades but now he has contracted a terminal illness and is dying. His wife has always prided herself on being there for him when he needed her, but now she feels helpless. Meanwhile he is scared and angry and is […]

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Rising Again to Dance

Chidi Okoye (Nigeria)  Spiritual Sunday I refute Berkeley thus, Samuel Johnson famously said. And kicked a rock. Bishop Berkeley was the 18th century idealist philosopher who asked how we know reality is really there if we are dependent upon our senses for perceiving it. Is the rock in existence when we turn our backs? Johnson’s […]

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Children Commence, Parents Let Go

Flowers for Justin This past Saturday St. Mary’s College held its graduation and, as always, it was a time of good-byes. Good-byes are the theme of today’s post. One good-bye was to poet Lucille Clifton, a former member of the faculty whose poem “blessing the boats (at St. Mary’s)” has become a regular part of […]

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Jackie Robinson, Poetry in Motion

Jackie Robinson steals home  Sports Saturday In the memorial service held at St. Mary’s College for Lucille Clifton two weeks ago, I learned that she had three special heroes: Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, and Jackie Robinson. Robinson, of course, was the African American player who broke the baseball color line in 1947, which he […]

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Poems for Abuse Victims

Lucille Clifton Having attended a memorial ceremony for the recently departed poet Lucille Clifton this past Saturday (see yesterday’s post), today I commemorate her by putting some of her poems to good use. Catholic priest molestation has been in the news recently (less the molestation, which tragically occurs in all walks of life, than the […]

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Blessing the Boats at St. Mary’s

A Replica of the Dove I know the last few posts have been tough—race is never easy to talk about, even when doing so makes us feel better than trying to ignore it. To end the week on a lighter note, I feature a poem of grace. It is by Lucille Clifton, St. Mary’s emeritus […]

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“Even the Best” Whites Don’t Get Race

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that a noted poet once mentioned me in a poem critical of whites. The poet is Lucille Clifton, formerly a colleague at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, now retired. The poem appeared in her book quilting. I’ll quote the poem and then give the backstory: note to my self it’s […]

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What Personal Reading Histories Tell Us

I can’t recommend enough the value of writing your reading history. It will reveal to you sides of yourself you didn’t know you had.

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

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