Imagine being described as honest, clear-eyed or simply impressive. These words were used by Toni Morrison herself to describe Lucille Clifton’s memoir ‘Generations.’ Lucille Clifton was more than a poet. The best too if I might add. She was a mother to six children and a prolific children’s book author. Her name Lucile meant light and she lived in light to the fullest. She also came from a line of Dahomey woman, whom her father would say walked from New Orleans to Virginia.
Generations is one Lucille’s storytelling at its finest. She narrates the life of her African American family through slavery and hard times and beyond. She also shares her thoughts about the death of her father and grandmother and all the life and love and triumph that came before and still remains as a powerful testimony of her family’s resilience through time. These are lives Tracy K Smith described in the foreword of the book, that America’s dominant history has let fall in the shadow. Stories that have been left unmarked, untended, by the country’s preferred view of itself. And Lucille Clifton deftly brings all of them to light, allowing these stories to demand their rightful space.
In this season of my life, I am chasing furiously the break light that came to Lucille. She embodies all I want to become as a writer, a storyteller too. Light speaks through her and is her like a life force. Towards the end of Generations, she described how her Dad once shared that ‘we come out of it better than they did.’ By it, he was referring to slavery and how despite its cruelty, we are still here. And the next generation and the generation after them walk with confidence through the world, free sons and daughters of free folks. Though the generations before went through awful things, her grandmother Lucy for example, was the first Black woman legally hanged in the state of Virginia. But yet the things that make and hold every generation together are more than the awful things they experienced. Our lives are our line and we go on. We do, illuminating all the light that comes to us. Like her, I want to feel all the love and life and triumph of my ancestors gathering in my bones. Because of them, we are here and for them, generations of us will remain. Her invitation to a radical reconfiguration of self is my muse for this year. We get to listen this February as her daughters celebrate the life and legacy of their mother. The event is free and you can sign up here. https://calendar.prattlibrary.org/event/annual_lucille_clifton_celebration#.YfV9kCRMEWM