new sequence–Clifton and the Bible

November 3, 2010

I have posted a scanned copy of Clifton’s “island mary” sequence, of which I have spoken in class, on our Readings page.  I included one unnamed poem that immediately precedes the sequence because, as I looked at it this time, I feel like it is in conversation with the following poems.  fyi, Clifton also has a longish sequence called “some jesus” that includes poems on Biblical characters from Adam and Eve through Joseph (this latter is one of my favorites in it), as well as on events of Jesus’ life. It includes a BSE dialect at times or connects the events to African American experience.  Let me know if you’d like to see this also.

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Clifton: Questions of Sequence

November 3, 2010

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design
I’ve been looking at the Clifton sequences and the questions of sequencing and resequencing.  This goes back, I think to our discussions of the Plath resequencing and how it changed the tone of the volume.  Clifton’s “Blessing the Boats” feels like a volume that could easily lend itself to resequencing, without taking from the meanings.  In fact, I think that some rearranging might lead to a greater understanding. 

In it’s current form, poems are grouped according to surface topic, i.e.: dreams, leda, superman, fox, lucifer, etc, with each giving a different voice or treatment of the topic.  But I’ve noticed that there are recurring treatments of topics, voices and imagery that might be used as an alternative topic in sequences.  What, for instance, happens when we put: “quilting” (59), “eve thinking” (79), and “the message of thelma sayles” (50) together, and/or “a dream of foxes” (115) and “my dream about second coming” (45), in conversation with one another?  Do you think that this regrouping significantly changes meaning and understanding.  Does it take from or add to the meaning for you?

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The Power of Clifton

October 29, 2010

Please watch this video of Chris Abani at TEDTalks all the way through if you have time; it’s very beautiful.   Clifton’s poetry comes in at the end.

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Lucille Clifton’s [Lack of] Punctuation

October 28, 2010

I never thought that a general lack of punctuation would make the grammar-fueled part of my brain crave it this much.

Lucille Clifton’s miserly use of punctuation throughout Blessing the Boats becomes much more meaningful to the audience, not just as devices to make the poems “correct,” but to allow or dispel ambiguity.  Her use of line breaks, indentation, and a straight-forward, story-telling tone allows for plenty of ambiguity in phrases that crave punctuation. The meaning of a line can be completely reconstructed by the assumption of her implied commas or periods. Poems like “Lumpectomy Eve” showcase this ambiguous lack of formal punctuation; but, it could be argued that Clifton replaces this formal punctuation with atypical spacing, line breaks, and indentation. The delicate possible interpretations of the third and fourth stanzas of “Lumpectomy Eve” would be ruined by traditional spacing and commas. (I would reproduce the lines here, but I don’t think I could do accurate justice to their format.)

Was anyone else shocked by the impact of Clifton’s punctuation-light poems?

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