Thursday, May 24, 2007

Clifton's Lilly Prize Ceremony

Last night, through the kindness of my colleague, poet Reg Gibbons, I was able to attend the Poetry Foundation's ceremony for 2007 Ruth Lilly Prize winner Lucille Clifton. Below are some photos from the event, which was held at the Chicago Arts Club, a swanky downtown Chicago venue I'd never been in before.

Ms. Lucille's reading was a vintage affair, full of her usual humor, self-deprecation, and sly ferociousness, which she wields better than almost anyone I know. She read some of her best known poems (I always hope she'll read a number of the poems from The Book of Light, which was my first introduction to her and one of my favorites), as well as some brand new ones that dealt with stereotypical characters, like Rastus, and the current state of the country. The contrast between the Arts Club crowd--and I'd add the Poetry Foundation officialdom--and the prize recipient provoked a few moments of cognitive dissonance for me, but I was delighted to have been able to attend, and as I told Ms. Lucille, it was both an honor and joy to be there. She certainly made it worthwhile.

Krista Franklin (back to the camera), Tasha Tarpley behind her

Poet Linda Bierds (back to camera) speaking with my former colleague, Christina Pugh, Reg at back

Poetry foundation head John Barr (at right) praising Clifton

Clifton with Poetry editor Christian Wiman

Lucille Clifton with two of her daughters and her granddaughter before the reading

Multigenre author Tasha Tarpley and poet Calvin Forbes

Slovenia poet Aleš Debeljak; his wife, Erica Johnson Debeljak, a fiction writer; and Reg

The prize-winner herself