Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

Clifton and the Bible

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A poet’s writing is sometimes undefined even by the author themselves. Meanings are relative to the people who read them and the poet himself who creates the piece. It is the undefined pieces that creates the most controversy and illusions. A poet’s writing can be a personal piece or it can be a broad stroke written for everyone and a message for a generation.

Poet Lucille Clifton, an African American writer and author of many well known poems such as “Generations”, “Daughters”, and “Sarah’s promise” writes about her family, her life, and the influence of her family on her.

It is the writer’s ability to translate other writing into their writing that allows their stories to become relatable and their message to become prominent in their writing.

In Clifton’s poem “Daughters” she describes the generations of her family, the passage of time and the gift that her matriarchal lineage gave her.

Woman, I am Lucille, which stands for light, daughter of Thelma, daughter of Georgia, daughter of dazzling you”(Daughters)

This line is almost an exact break up of the line from the bible, Abraham begate Isaac, and Isaac begate Iacob, and Iacob begate Iudas and his brethren.” (King James Bible).  It is in the writing that the author can create a relatable context for the people to understand her relationship between her family and herself.

Within the author’s writing she discusses the idea of the gifts bestowed upon her. “I like to think you gave us extraordinary power and to protect us, you became the name we were cautioned to forget”(Daughters). This is the gift given to her from her family, something passed onto her from her family, a relatable content as a gift from god bestow upon us.

In Clifton’s poem, Sarah’s Promise it is a loosely veiled reference to the story of Sarah and Abraham, a woman who could not conceive until the ripe of old age of 90 years old having her first child. Clifton writes from the unwritten perspective of the bible that comes from possibly losing her only son. Clifton writes how Sarah would react striking god for asking for her son.

Jehovah, I march into the thicket of your need and promise you the children of young women, yours for a thousand years. Their faith will send them to you docile as Abraham. Now, speak to my husband. Spare me my one good boy”(Sarah’s Promise)

In a very demeaning tone she writes as someone who does not fear god, this strong powerful figure who isn’t afraid and promises the lives of others in return for the lives of her own son. This powerful statement is a rare perspective that comes from the a critic of the bible.

Clifton’s references to the bible has a very matriarchal message in her writings. She shows the perspective of women in the bible such as Sarah or almost rewrites it from the perspective of a female lineage as opposed to the male lineage written into the bible. Clifton’s piece’s writes from a female perspective who longs to bring up a new strength to a female perspective and write from an unwritten angle.

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