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The Folger Spotlight

Poetic Pairings: Lucille Clifton and MIL Historias

Shakespeare’s Sisters: Say Her Name celebrates the poetry of Black women in America. This virtual seminar and writing workshop for adults explores poets such as June Jordan, Ai, Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove, Tracy K. Smith and others. From the Black Arts Movement to Cave Canem to recent Poet Laureates, these poets speak to the contemporary moment with many still alive and producing work.

We are pleased to bring you a special collaboration with DCanter wines, pairing a poem from the Shakespeare’s Sisters curriculum with a recommended wine each Monday of the seminar. Folger Poetry Coordinator and Shakespeare’s Sisters co-leader Teri Cross Davis provides context for the choices.

Our second session of Shakespeare’s Sisters begins this week and with it we continue to explore poetic voices from the twentieth century. This week’s poem comes from Lucille Clifton, Poet Laureate for the state of Maryland from 1979-1985. A 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize winner, she was nominated for the Pulitzer in 1980, later became the first author to be a Pulitzer finalist for two books of poetry in a single year in 1987, and won a Coretta Scott King Award in 1984 for her children’s book Everett Anderson’s Goodbye. Her collection Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000 won the National Book Award.

i am accused of tending to the past
By Lucille Clifton

i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother’s itch
took it to breast
and named it
she is more human now,
learning languages everyday,
remembering faces, names and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.

Clifton’s work recognizes that many stories have gone untold for years, for decades, connecting to the thousand stories referenced in this week’s wine, MIL Historias Manchuela Malbec 2018. The poem, like the wine, is interested in those untold stories, the silenced voices and it too wants to unleash those stories to a public interested in hearing them.

MIL Historias Manchuela Malbec 2018

From: Manchuela, Spain

Description: This wine is bright, dark and deep red with an almost black core. Sweet aroma of black fruits, blackberry, plum, fresh cherries, and red flowers combine with autumnal aromas of violets, balsamic tones, thyme, and rosemary.

Pairs with: A great pairing with grilled red meats, ribs, lamb, pork, stuffed peppers, hard cheeses, and pasta with tomato sauce.

In the hot, dry lands of La Mancha, you’ll find Rosalia Molina, a young, up-and-coming winemaker turning heads. Specializing in organic and biodynamic practices, she is focusing on grape varieties typically not found in the region and making higher quality wine at affordable prices. This organic and vegan Malbec is the perfect representation of her trailblazing. MIL Historias in Spanish means “a thousand stories,” and is often used among friends to say, “I have so much to tell you!” We can’t wait to see what the next generation of winemakers tell us through their wine.—Beth Richman, DCanter


DCanter logoDCanter: A Wine Boutique is a wine retailer located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, specializing in sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wines from small producers around the world as well as fun, yet informative, wine education. Their selections are available in-store, online, or through a personalized wine shopping service known as Concierge by DCanter. Visit them at to learn more.

The second session of Shakespeare’s Sisters: Say Her Name begins Wednesday, November 3, exploring Lucille Clifton and continuing to look at modernist, feminist poets . Register online or call the box office at 202.544.7077.