won’t you celebrate with me

won’t you celebrate with me

By Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in Babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Summary of you celebrate with me

  • Popularity of “won’t you celebrate with me”: Written by Lucille Clifton, a decorated and poetry prize winner African American poet, writer, activist, and poet laureate, this beautiful poem first appeared in 1993 in her collection, Book of Light. Copper Canyon Press published this book in the United States. This poem celebrates her identity in the world, having multiple languages spoken under the rule of the white patriarchy. The beauty of the poem lies in the honest expression of the poet about her achievement for making it to the top despite having no role model and no support system.
  • “won’t you celebrate with me” As a Representative of African American Identity: Spanning over three verses, the poet Lucille Clifton poses a rhetorical question about her achievement as becoming the poet laureate of Maryland. Although she has not mentioned it, she knows that such things happen with role models and with people such as parents to support them. However, she has achieved without any of these, and that too as a woman from the nonwhite community. In both cases, her pride is prominent as she puts another rhetorical question to state that she has made it to the top by staying within the same place and same community and holding her own hands in the absence of no support. And it has happened despite the hostility of everything against her.
  • Major Themes in “won’t you celebrate with me”: African American identity, indomitable will, and feminine resilience along with pride are some of the major themes of this short poem. Although Lucille Clifton does not state that she is from the African American community, her use of the words “nonwhite” and “woman” shows that she is facing this double barrier in her dream of achieving something great. The indomitable will is clear from her words that “i made it up” to the point where she won prizes as well as medals to prove that she could do it. She wants to celebrate, but nobody is there to hold her hands as she is all alone.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in won’t you celebrate with me

Lucille Clifton used various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of her poem. Some of the major literary devices she has used are as follows.

  1. Allusion: It is a reference to a literary, historical, and social event, incident, or figure to show its importance in the existing context. The poet used allusions of her African American identity in an implicit manner and of living in Babylon, by which she means the United States.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /a/ in “what i have shaped into” and the sound of /o/ in “my one hand holding tight.”
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /h/ in “hand holding” and /b/ in “bridge between.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /n/ and /t/ in “my one hand holding tight” and the sound of /s/ in “starshine and clay.”
  5. Enjambment: In this device, a verse carries its idea to the next verse without any pause or hint of a pause. Almost every other verse in this poem is an enjambment.
  6. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Lucille Clifton used imagery in this poem, such as “born nonwhite and woman”, “here on this bridge between” and “with me that everyday.”
  7. Personifications: It means to attribute human traits to inanimate objects and ideas. The poem shows the use of personifications such as winds, waves, leafy trees, and hearts have some human traits. Hence, they are good examples of personifications.
  8. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols, such as life, model, Babylon, nonwhite, and bridge, to show African American identity of the poet.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in won’t you celebrate with me

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows pidgin and informal diction.
  2. Free Verse: It means to use verses sans any pattern of rhyme or meter. This poem is written in free verse poetry.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This poem is a single-stanza poem having fourteen verses.
  4. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows an interrogative, optimistic and resilient tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote to celebrate what has come after great efforts.

my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.