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Callaloo 25.4 (2002) 1038-1074

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Lucille Clifton and Sonia Sanchez
a conversation

Eisa Davis

Good evening. I'm Robert Polito, Director of the New School writing program, and it's my immense pleasure tonight to welcome you to this special evening of readings and conversation with Lucille Clifton, Sonia Sanchez and Eisa Davis. This evening is jointly sponsored by Cave Canem and the New School, and I want to thank everyone at Cave Canem, especially Carolyn Micklem, Sarah Micklem, Cornelius Eady, and Toi Derricotte.

This evening is planned as the first in an ongoing series of evenings with Cave Canem, and everyone at the New School is honored by the collaboration. Originating in 1996 as a vision of a retreat to support African-American poets, Cave Canem is a vital catalyst in the American poetry renaissance with a steadily expanding program of summer workshops, regional workshops, public readings and now public programs along the lines of this evening's convocation of two remarkable writers.

Lucille Clifton is a distinguished poet and teacher. She's the author of many books of poetry including Next: New Poems; Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980; An Ordinary Woman; Generation, Quiltings: Poems 1987 To 1991; The Book Of Light; and The Terrible Stories. She's the recipient of many honors including a 1999 Lila Wallace Readers Digest Writers Award and on two occasions she was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. She won the 2000 National Book Award for her latest collection, Blessing the Boats, New and Selected Poems 1988-2000.

Sonia Sanchez is an essayist, poet, teacher and activist. Her many books include Homecoming; We A BaddDDD People; Love Poems; A Sound Investment And Other Stories; Homegirls and Hand Grenades; Wounded In The House Of A Friend; Does Your House Have Lions?; Like The Singing Coming Off The Drums; and Shake Loose My Skin. Her many honors include an American Book Award, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, the Langston Hughes Award for Poetry, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and, on this stage just last spring, she was awarded the Robert Frost Medal by the Poetry Society of America.

The moderator this evening is Eisa Davis. She is a poet, performer and playwright; her play "Paper Armor" will be read at the Langston Hughes Centenary Conference at Yale in February.

So please join me now in welcoming Lucille, Sonia, and Eisa.

[Applause] [End Page 1038]

DAVIS: Well, I wanted to welcome everyone and thank you all for coming. We know that Toi Derricotte could not make it tonight and we want to send our blessings to her and to her family. I know she'll feel every wonderful word that these two pillars will speak tonight and this is the—

SANCHEZ: Did you get that we're pillars?

DAVIS: Pillars of literature.

SANCHEZ: We got it, we're gonna mess with you; right, you're our student, so we can mess with you.

DAVIS: You can, that's right, and this is Cave Canem, so we're going to do this all the right way. And I think some of you here know what that means. So this is the vanguard, the Cave Canem people out there to keep it all live and keep the love flowing.

SANCHEZ: Tell them to raise their hands, the Cave Canem people.

DAVIS: Cave Canem people, could you raise your hands by Sonia's request? [applause] So we're gonna have a reading tonight: first Lucille Clifton will read, and then Sonia Sanchez will read, and then we'll have a conversation here, followed by a Q&A in which you will be able to ask some questions from the audience. Afterwards there'll be an opportunity to purchase some books and have them signed.

SANCHEZ: Is this the 10-minute reading?

DAVIS: Yes, and I think what I wanted to say before we begin is that our work tonight is listening and that our play tonight is also listening and that this conversation series was inaugurated because Cave Canem...


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