“won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in Babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?”
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me?” 

When you are reading poetry in anthologies, especially older publications, you are overwhelmed by the ponderous weight of male voices, with the occasional Emily Dickinson or Elizabeth Barrett Browning thrown in for good measure. It is sometimes difficult to respond to a female voice, especially a Black female poet, without feeling on the outside or without fear of sounding condescending. But Lucille Clifton’s voice is radiant and inclusive. She speaks to everyone, inviting them to revel in her strength, in her  industry. And she does not seek congratulation but only to ask people to join in an ironic recognition that could be equally apportioned to much of mankind –  “everyday/ something has tried to kill me/ and has failed.”