Farewell Notes to a Great Poet and Friend

blessing the boats  
by Lucille Clifton

(at St. Mary's)

may the tide  that is entering even now  the lip of our understanding  carry you out  beyond the face of fear  may you kiss  the wind then turn from it  certain that it will  love your back    may you  open your eyes to water  water waving forever  and may you in your innocence  sail through this to that

From: "blessing the boats - Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More."

At St. Mary's College of Maryland, my junior and senior years were consumed with a project that examined the cathartic experiential benefits of poetry readings for author and audience.

I had a night class with poet Lucille Clifton. There were only 7 of us, and each week our poems were ripped to shreds by one another and sometimes , seldom, reconstructed into something beautiful, terrible, or, more often, mediocre.

Lucille taught me to love the feeling of the wind at my back during times of change, even when it felt more like a tsunami than a tender evening breeze.

Because of Lucille I didn't take my writing too lightly - nor too seriously - but just seriously enough. (Poets have an unfortunate tendency to ballast their public personas with more weight and gravity than their ethos earns).

Because of Lucille I stopped writing just for me, and started writing for others.

Because of Lucille I came to California - now home - for the first time in the summer of 2003, to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers' "Writing the Medical Experience" workshop.

I wandered around Truckee in a daze. I'd done nothing but have a car accident. What right did I have to be there, a lazy college kid, surrounded by brilliant personalities and wordplay at every turn?

If only I had known then the intense redirection that would occur as a result of that 2 weeks living and working amongst poets including Louise Gluck and Rafael Campo, plus medical students and doctors from all over the country, I may not have *wasted* so much time trying to tell myself one couldn't possibly make a living from creating and communicating the value of a single individual's learning about what it means to be sick, and what it means to live well.

Because of Lucille I stopped hiding from myself and began to write with gut-wrenching honesty. The way she taught me to write, about my life and desires, informed the way that I speak now - to audiences, to friends, to family, to loved ones.

Lucille, you have sailed through this to that.

I hope the water was smooth, my friend - near the end - for your journey. Thank you.

Posted via web from Jen's Posterous

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