“Forgiving My Father” is an example of a lyrical poem. Written by Lucille Clifton, its lines contain the poet’s recriminations against her father (Schilb & Clifford 253). A lyrical poem relays the poet’s true feelings and thoughts regarding anything that he chooses to write about (Campa, AuthorStream.com). In this case, Clifton has written about how her father had failed to give her, her siblings and her mother the kind of life that was better than what they lived. The overall tone of the lines of a lyrical poem and the choice of words therein would all depend on the poet’s purpose for writing it (Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 181). This specific poem, “Forgiving My Father,” uses some disrespectful lines to describe the author’s father; at the same time, the poem contains no loving words and no grateful words, either, for the author’s father.
Poets would have to synchronize their specific moods and feelings at the time of writing their pieces with their respective purposes for them (Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 181). In the case of Clifton’s “Forgiving My Father,” the lines dwell on a sad topic and the words therein such as “empty”, “pauper”, and “debtors’ boxes” all paint a sad picture. Lucille Clifton used unsavory words such as “lecher” and “liar” to describe her father, which only served to bolster the glum – and a bit bitter – tone of the poem.
Lyrical poems reveal the poet behind its lines. The poem “Forgiving My Father” speaks of how Lucille Clifton needed to forgive her father and how in the end she decided that she ought to forgive him, as follows (Schilb & Clifford 253):
Daddy old pauper old prisoner, old dead man 20 what am I doing here collecting? 21 You lie side by side in debtors’ boxes 22 and no accounting will open them up. 23
Lucille Clifton Forgiving My Father
Lines 20 to 23 make it clear that Lucille Clifton, in the end, realized that it was futile to harbor angry feelings against her father. After all, he was gone and she had to move with her life. However she would feel, nothing would bring back her father and mother – it was best to let them go, to leave her past behind and to cease pondering on thoughts along “What if” and “If only” lines.
Lucille Clifton, an award-winning writer of poems and children’s books, undoubtedly wrote her heart down in her poem “Forgiving My Father.” Clifton was born on June 27, 1936 in Depew New York, a suburb of Buffalo (The Circle Association webpage)
The poem employs the open poem form. It consists of 23 lines; it has three stanzas composed of seven, nine and seven lines. There are no pairs of rhyming words in the poem, and it does not seem to employ a rhythm through its lines of varying numbers of syllables.
“Forgiving My Father” speaks of the struggle of the author to blame her father no more for his shortcomings as a father and as a husband. The poem is an eloquent attempt to voice the author’s feelings. The author simply let her heart out with each written line; she cared more for substance and less for the structure and make-up of the poem. This served to make the poem even more haunting. While reading it, one feels the repressed anger and disappointment, hurt and desire to lash out which are all elements of the first to nineteenth lines. Then one feels the author’s will to let go of her pain with the realization that life must go on and that the ills of the past cannot be undone.
Writing the essay was an exercise that was meant to teach me to appreciate poetry and the insight that one gains from reading poems. As instructed, I selected a poem to focus on and studied in terms of the aspects and qualities that I learned each poem has, according to its purpose, theme and general mood. Through it all, I hoped to be able to do the same exercise as the normal thing that I would do whenever I come across a poem. I think the strength of this paper is the openness with which I tried to write my lines. I would change it only if I can improve my analysis of the elements of the poem, which is the part that I find difficult.
The interesting realization that hit me during the exercise is that different people from different parts of the world go through basically the same happy and sad points, high and low points in life. There would be differences in specific surrounding circumstances born of the uniqueness of each one of us, but the joys and sorrows of people living different lives are often the same and common amongst people. The author of the poem talked of her anger for her father and her resolve to forgive him. I somehow know that the same story has occurred over and over again to different people in different places around the world. I further realize that the poetry we read can sometimes mirror our own feelings and thoughts.
The most difficult part about this paper is the identification of the specific elements of the selected piece of poetry. I am not sure whether or not I did it right, but somehow attempting to do it right made me see that there are alternative styles that an author can choose to adopt in the course of writing his poems. The MLA format rules also are a bit hard to properly follow; the same rules made me see that I have to study even harder to be able to write well as an educated individual. Anyhow, I hope our instructor would appreciate my exerted efforts.
Campa, TC. “Poetry – Lyrical and Narrative.” Author Stream. 10 January 2009
“Lyrical Poetry.” Encyclopedia Britannica: p. 181.
Schilb, John & Clifford, John. Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers. USA: Bedford Books, 2008.
Clifton, Lucille. “On Strength Gotten from Others.” The Circle Association. 10 July 2009