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
... middle of paper ...
...ht 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."
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.
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