by Lucille Clifton
good times Introduction
In A Nutshell
Ahh… do you hear that? That's your ears and heart telling you we're in for some good times today with none other than Lucille Clifton. But really, we mean it, because our poem's title is "good times," and was first published in 1969—a year well known for its good times (and bad). So if you feel like kicking back with a refreshing drink and reminiscing about some of your own good times, now is the perfect opportunity to do so.
Clifton's speaker is like a breath of fresh air in a stuffy old poetry seminar that smells like mothballs and cranky professors. She leaves no room for any of that fancy talk, which some poets and teachers can't help but churn out when the words "modern poetry" are mentioned.
Instead, Clifton's speaker takes the whole modern poetry thing and chucks it out the window, leaving only "good times" behind. Along with fancy words, she also gets rid of punctuation, capitalization, and so-called proper grammar, too.
Instead, Clifton prefers to keep it simple. In "good times" we've got dear ol' dad paying the bills (thereby getting those lights back on), and everybody being drunk and dancing in the kitchen. Simple pleasures are what matter in Clifton's poem, especially when money is hard to come by and we're struggling to stay afloat.
You see, sometimes we may take ordinary things like electricity and food for granted, but when those things aren't always so easy to get, good times tend to feel even better. And since the speaker keeps repeating the phrase "good times," we get the feeling that these times are most important. So no need for your modern poetry decoder today, because Clifton is all about reminding us that life ought to be about remembering the simple stuff and not worrying so much about ironing your fancy pants.
Why Should I Care?
If you're here reading this then chances are you're pretty lucky. By that we mean that Lucille Clifton was one of those rare gems who refrained from beating her readers over the head with unapproachable verse. She was all about the profundity of simple pleasures. So thank your lucky stars for the chance to toil over "good times" rather than an ode to your thesaurus.
As a clever critic once put it, Clifton's poetry pares things down for us in a way that in each poem, "its spaces take on substance" and end up being just as meaningful as the words themselves (source). You know what we're talking about: that meaningful silence where words tend to fall short in capturing human emotions.
After all, we each have vastly different ideas of what "good times" mean to us, so it makes sense that we'd have a poem that doesn't try to define those moments without any breathing room. So kick back, take a second to think about some of your favorite memories, and then have a look at what Lucille Clifton thinks about those awesome good times. You just might find yourself knowing exactly what she means.