I realize there are no doubt poets (even major ones) that I ought to read more of. Sometimes I will read a half dozen or so poems of one poet and they just are not clicking with me in a way I would hope for. Sadly it may be a while before I get around to trying them again, and sometimes I may never.
Even though it’s early for Confession Tuesday, I’ll admit that I was never really much into the poetry of Lucille Clifton. I’ve read only a little of her work and she is a prime example of what I was just talking about. She was not a Ruth Stone, whose work I took an instant liking to or Sharon Olds, or W.S. Merwin. But I do know well enough that she was a poet whose work was widely read (as poetry goes) and that many adored her poems. Perhaps I just selected the wrong ones.
This weekend, along with her passing, I had an opportunity for exposure to a few more of her poems. One of those poems not only stood out, but it grabbed me and shook me. If it is true, what Randall Jarrell says about poetry, that “A poet is a man [or woman] who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times” then, Blessing the Boats had to have been one of them. These fifteen lines of poetry do what poetry should do. It names the un-namable. In simple words, without flash or flair, Crafton speaks to the heart of the human condition and says something powerful… undeniably so, and what that is will probably be something different to each of us, but it will be incontrovertible to ourselves.