Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday Muse: Lucille Clifton Exhibitions

The literary and personal papers of African-American poet, memoirist, and children's book author Lucille Clifton (1936-1910) now reside at Emory University, which also holds Clifton's private library. The archive, acquired in August 2006, includes not only all of Clifton's literary manuscripts (poems, short stories, essays, interviews, book reviews, translations of poems, speeches) but also her correspondence, teaching files, files related to organizations with which she was associated, photographs, and, among other items, audiovisual material. Of interest are her "spirit writings", or written communications with the spirit world; among these papers are Clifton's explanations and descriptions of her channelings and transcriptions of poems "passed" to Clifton from poets in the spirit world. The papers of Clifton's husband Fred Clifton (1934-1984), an artist, author, and community organizer, also are part of the collection, which opened in 2010 one week before Clifton's death from cancer at age 73.

Clifton, who was awarded the prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 2007 and received a National Book Award in 2000 (for Blessing the Boats, BOA Editions, 2000), is the subject of an exhibition at Emory in the MARBL (Manuscript, Archive, and Rare Book Library) Gallery of the Robert W. Woodruff Library

Drawing from the archive, the exhibition comprises two parts. The first, "come celebrate with me: The Work of Lucille Clifton", which opened August 28 and is curated by Amy Hildreth Chen and poet Kevin Young, an Emory professor of English and creative writing and co-editor of the newly released The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 (BOA Editions, 2012), makes available poems from the 1950s to 2010, limited-edition books, and personal photographs. Highlights include drafts of poems that have been published in the Collected Poems, broadsides, book proofs, and other materials.

The second, a smaller exhibition, "She Sang So Sweet: Lucille Clifton's Children's Literature", curated by Chen (Young's research assistant) and opening later this month in the library's Corridor Gallery, features Clifton's first books, including Clifton's first children's book What Watches Me? A Writing and Drawing Books for You (1968), and the unpublished compilation of Clifton's "jump-rope rhymes".

Also included in the exhibition is Clifton's last poem, "In the Middle of the Eye", in the poet's own handwriting. Young has described it as "a really powerful thing to see. . . It's about being brave in the face of everything. . . ."

Elsewhere, a commemorative exhibition of photographs, "Among Poets: Maryland's Poet Laureate Lucille Clifton", is on view through December 30 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. The exhibition is concurrent with another photo exhibition about Clifton at Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, Maryland, on view through January 6, 2013. Clifton was a library trustees from 1975 to 1984.

"Celebrating Poet Lucille Clifton", Writing Without Paper, February 15, 2010 (This post includes a number of resources related to Clifton.)

Broadside of Clifton's "aunt jemima" for Clifton's 2006 Guest Reading for Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series at Emory (This broadside may still be available for purchase.)

Recording at Poems by Heart of Lucille Clifton's "homage to my hips" (The poem is featured in its entirety in "Lucille Clifton, Poet Who Explored Black Lives, Dies, at 73", The New York Times, February 17, 2010.)

Emory University's MARBL on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

Kevin Young on Twitter

An August 17, 2012, Publishers Weekly interview about Clifton with Young and co-editor Michael Glaser is accessible to subscribers only.

1 comment:

Louise Gallagher said...

Your discoveries are always such treasures to explore!

thank you for filling my world with wonder. -- Love the Poems by Heart recording.