Quilting - Foxes in the Poetry of Lucille Clifton

analytical Essay
1499 words
1499 words

Quilting - Foxes in the Poetry of Lucille Clifton

In 1942 Virginia Woolf read a paper to the Women’s Service League about "The Angel in the House." For Woolf, this "Angel" represented the voice in the back of the mind of a woman that was saying, "Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own" (1346). During Woolf’s time a woman was not supposed to write critically. Rather, a woman was supposed to "be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts and wiles of her sex." Woolf writes of the need to "kill" this angel. She says, "Had I not killed her, she would have killed me" (1346). Thankfully today it is no longer considered improper for a woman to write critically and truthfully, but Lucille Clifton has her own "angel to kill" in some of her poetry. Clifton is a woman artist who uses her past experiences and those of her ancestors to write her poetry. Clifton uses the ideas of light and foxes to convey the joy she finds in being a woman poet, as well as the fear that an artist sometimes feels when first struck with an idea for a poem.

The poems "telling our stories" and "the coming of fox" reveal the feelings of fear an artist may have when creating a work. In "telling our stories" Clifton compares a fox to a poet:

the fox came every evening to my door

asking for nothing. my fear

trapped me inside, hoping to dismiss her

but she sat till morning, waiting.

at dawn we would, each of us,

rise from our haunches, look through the glass

then walk away.

did she gather her village around her

and sing of the hairless moon face,

the trembling snout, the ignorant eyes?

child, i tell you now it was not

the animal blood i was hiding from,

it was the poet in her, the poet and

the terrib...

... middle of paper ... some "terrible stories." By bringing to light these "terrible stories" a poet in effect slays the "angels" that kept her from writing. Every author has his/her own "angel" to slay. Lucille Clifton sees past the fear she has about what she might write about using her gift of poetry to "slay her angel."

Works Cited

Clifton, Lucille. Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir: 1969-1980. Rochester, NY: BOA, 1987.

---. Quilting: Poems 1987-1990. Rochester, NY: BOA, 1991.

---. The Terrible Stories. Brockport, NY: BOA, 1996.

Rushing, Andrea Benton. "Lucille Clifton: A Changing Voice for Changing Times." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Roger Matuz. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc, 1991. 79-81.

Woolf, Virginia. "Professions for Women." The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. Ed. Sandra M. Gilbert and S. Gubar. New York, NY: Norton, 1996. 1345-48.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how lucille clifton uses light and foxes to convey the joy and fear of being a woman poet.
  • Analyzes how the poems "telling our stories" and "the coming of fox" reveal the feelings of fear an artist may have when creating a work.
  • Analyzes how the fox represents the fear the poet is feeling about what she has and wants to say. the poem is the first in clifton's collection titled the terrible stories.
  • Analyzes how the fox represents the poet's ideas for a poem beginning to take shape over many days and nights.
  • Analyzes how the fox in both of these poems is reminiscent of "the angel in the house" woolf wrote of in her "professions for women" essay. the "angel" that these two speakers worry about is not society, but their fear of what they are capable of writing.
  • Analyzes how clifton uses the word light to represent her gift for writing poetry. in "testament," she describes the first moment she realizes she has the gift.
  • Analyzes how the "voice" in the poem is that of the speaker, in this case clifton herself. the "world" is poetry itself.
  • Analyzes how the speaker in the poem "mother i am mad" realizes what effect "light" has had on the way in which she looks at things.
  • Analyzes how light is the only word capitalized in the poem. it allows the speaker to look back on her past in a new way.
  • Compares the light that clifton writes of in "telling our stories" and "coming of fox." while the poems are not dealing with fear, both the light and the fox represent this gift of poetry that is not in the poet’s control.
  • Analyzes how lucille clifton uses her gift of poetry to "slay her angel" by bringing to light "terrible stories."
  • Cites clifton, lucille. good woman: poems and a memoir: 1969-1980. rushing, andrea benton. contemporary literary criticism.
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