You are not currently logged in.

Access JSTOR through your library or other institution:


Log in through your institution.

Journal Article

Authority, History, and Everyday Mysticism in the Poetry of Lucille Clifton: A Womanist View

Rachel Elizabeth Harding
Vol. 12, No. 1 (2014), pp. 36-57
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/meridians.12.1.36
Stable URL:
Page Count: 22
Were these topics helpful?
See something inaccurate? Let us know!

Select the topics that are inaccurate.

  • Download ($15.00)
  • Add to My Lists
  • Cite this Item
Authority, History, and Everyday Mysticism in the Poetry of Lucille Clifton: A Womanist View
Preview not available


Abstract Lucille Clifton, a northern-born woman with Southern roots, was a writer of profound illumination and plain speaking. This combination in her work—spare elegance of tone and deep practical wisdom—is often remarked upon by literary critics and admirers. Those who know Clifton's work well also note key elements of her poetic voice in which she honors the everyday mysticism of African American experience, a firm claim to agency and creativity in the face of terror, and an insistence on telling the truths of history—the joyful truths as well as the hidden and hurtful ones. In all of these elements, black women and our ways of knowing are privileged in Clifton's writing. There is a strong measure in which the poet's oeuvre and sensibility may be described as “womanist” in the broadest sense of the term developed by Alice Walker (1983). Using a framework informed by Walker's womanism, African American literary studies, and the history of Afro-Atlantic religions, this essay explores connections among these signal components of Clifton's work: namely, the poet's sense of agency and authority; the power of personal and collective history; and a nonsensational mystic spirituality linked to broader diasporic understandings of the sacred.

Page Thumbnails