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Amiri Baraka
Coleman Barks
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Lucille Clifton
Mark Doty
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Jane Hirshfield
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Shirley Geok-lin Lim
Paul Muldoon
Sharon Olds
Marge Piercy
Robert Pinsky

 

Teacher's Guide

If you are interested in obtaining printed copies, please write to:
Robert A. Miller, Educational Publishing
Thirteen/WNET
825 Eighth Avenue
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LUCILLE CLIFTON

"What they call you is one thing.
What you answer to is something else."

Self-taught, Lucille Clifton uses plain language to explore life's complexities and to affirm the spirit's endurance. Recently named a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, she has served on faculties of universities across the country and is currently Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary's College of Maryland.



"adam thinking"

she
stolen from my bone
is it any wonder
i hunger to tunnel back
inside desperate
to reconnect the rib and clay
and to be whole again

some need is in me
struggling to roar through my
mouth into a name
this creation is so fierce
i would rather have been born



"eve thinking"

it is wild country here
brothers and sisters coupling
claw and wing
groping one another

i wait
while the clay two-foot
rumbles in his chest
searching for language to

call me
but he is slow
tonight as he sleeps
i will whisper into his mouth
our names
won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.



"oh absalom my son my son"

even as i turned myself from you
i longed to hold you oh
my wild haired son

running in the wilderness away
from me from us
into a thicket you could not foresee

if you had stayed
i feared you would kill me
if you left i feared you would die

oh my son
my son
what does the Lord require



Who have you turned yourself from, and toward, at once?



Questions

1. In "won't you celebrate with me," Lucille Clifton says she had "no model" when she was growing up. How, then, did she become who she is?

2. Lucille Clifton uses biblical titles in three of these poems -- "adam thinking," "eve thinking," and "oh absalom my son my son." Create alternative titles for these poems. What would you gain or lose by eliminating the biblical allusions?

3. Listen to the words Lucille Clifton emphasizes when she reads "adam thinking" and "eve thinking." How does your listening experience differ from your reading experience?


Activities

1. Choose something about yourself that you would like others to celebrate with you. Create an invitation in words or pictures that expresses what it is you're celebrating and why.

2. Do research in the library to find out more about who Absalom was and what the name has come to mean in modern times. If there is an "Absalom" in your life or in the life of someone you know, think of what you would like to say to him or her. Express yourself in any medium you like.

3. Choose two figures from history, mythology, fiction, movies, or television who have a relationship with each other. What secret or surprising things might each think about the other? Develop your own scenario any way you like -- for example, in poetry, as a cartoon or comic strip, photo essay, two monologues, a dialogue, or pantomime.

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