vocalisms is a regular feature that presents selected tracks from Voca, the Poetry Center's online audiovisual archive of more than 800 recorded readings, spanning from 1963 to today.
In this 1974 recording, Marina Rivera closes the event by reading “Clifton at Night,” a poem which recalls childhood evenings visiting family in this small Arizona town. Rivera describes Clifton as seeming to be a place “where nothing could happen,” a small town among small towns. But against this stilled backdrop, language comes alive in Marina’s poem, voices flying out from a porch toward the river below. Later in the poem, young girls playing in the park respond to the power of the spoken word, asking the speaker to chant a sonnet to them again: “They did not know what it was but wanted it again like cake, because there in the park at night, the river made it theirs,” Rivera reads. In Rivera’s vision, Clifton expands with the life of the river and the life of language.