A Poetics of Family and Gender

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

While raising her family, Clifton became a writer of children’s books and poety. Many of her book titles suggest awareness of the lives of women, and indeed womanhood is a major presence in her art. As she wrote in 1987, “this is the tale/ i keep on telling/ trying to get it right.” Her poems portray a long “line/ of black and going on women,” who reject and rediscover their blackness, endure cold, make mistakes, grieve, blame and dream, hunger and feed, bleed, break and break through, love and defend, “trust the Gods,” expend their bodies, and perform with daily magic the making of families and homes. Although individuals sometimes fail or are destroyed, together they are the survivors through whom black America keeps persevering. They “know how long and strong life is” and they know “what to do.” In many poems, the history and fate of the family is presented in the form of a mother-daughter dialectic of the same but different self. To the mother, the daughter is “my more than me.” The daughter “puts on a dress called woman” but does not forget.

Lucyis the history ofher girlsare the place wherelucywas going

The good and the bad times in the lives of families are associated with men also. Men have the...

(The entire section is 600 words.)