Poetry Friday: Clint Smith

Earlier this summer, my daughter-in-law introduced me to Clint Smith‘s book, How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America. I immediately bought a copy, but haven’t started it yet. Then I found the summer issue of Poets & Writers at my local book store, and there was Clint Smith on the cover. What an amazing backstory to how this book came into the world! The article made me curious about Smith’s poetry, which led me to this poem. Sadly, it’s all too appropriate for this week, this month, this year.

When people say, “we have made it through worse before”
by Clint Smith

all I hear is the wind slapping against the gravestones
of those who did not make it, those who did not
survive to see the confetti fall from the sky, those who

did not live to watch the parade roll down the street.
I have grown accustomed to a lifetime of aphorisms
meant to assuage my fears, pithy sayings meant to

convey that everything ends up fine in the end. There is no
solace in rearranging language to make a different word
tell the same lie. Sometimes the moral arc of the universe

does not bend in a direction that will comfort us.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Please be sure to visit Carol at The Apples in My Orchard for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

13 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Clint Smith

  1. You might enjoy the Brene Brown interview of Clint Smith on her podcast, Unlocking Us. I love her interviews of people that usually begin with, “Tell me your story.” Smith’s poem above puts into words my feelings as of late. I’m exhausted from being asked to trust only to be followed by confusion, disappointment or anger…or a mix of all three.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. A friend recently gave me this book by Clint Smith which I still haven’t read. You’ve helped it move to the top of the stack, Catherine. What a poignant poem, sad but true: “I simply accept the possibility that I may not/live to see it.” is sometimes on my mind. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have read Clint Smith’s book and listened to a few podcasts and interviews with him. One of the places he visited for his book was Whitney Plantation near New Orleans. I went a few years ago. I recommend his book and interviews. I need to look into his poetry. Thanks for sharing this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! This poem really resonates with me. We’re called so often to be optimistic and to envision a bright future, often with little or no acknowledgement of the reality of pain and loss along the way. Thanks so much for sharing this poem with us, Catherine. It’s one I’ll read again and again, not only for its message, but also for the powerful word choice and imagery.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “We are not all left standing…” Please, dear Catherine, do not say I am hopeless, even though I am no longer telling myself the lies. I went to help with Kindergarten class composition yesterday with all my knowledge of my PreK kids and came away disappointed as usual that the exercise was once again all about numbers and not about children. And these are my esteemed colleagues. Clint is taking on far greater losses and lies, and yet it begins right here. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s such a good poem. I found these lines so telling:
    “There is no
    solace in rearranging language to make a different word
    tell the same lie.”

    Thanks for sharing that one. It’s very powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have just begun reading this book as well. It is a very emotional experience to confront ourselves and the stories we were taught and begin to ask the tough questions. It is humbling.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for putting this book on my radar, and for sharing this poem. I find the honesty it contains comforting in the age of the internet, when social media makes it so easy to share pithy sayings and aphorisms, given people the feeling they have done something to foster change, when there is so much real moral/mental/emotional/social/justice work that needs to be done, in order for there to be true change.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved his book of poetry COUNTING DESCENT so much that I had to buy a copy so I could re-read and re-read and re-read. After this #SealeyChallenge month, I plan to move HOW THE WORD IS PASSED to the top of my stack. Thank you to Linda for the podcast heads-up. I also recommend watching/listening to him perform on YouTube and TED.

    Liked by 1 person

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