Page Davidson Clayton was a bridge between times. Her parents went to Ole Miss with William Faulkner, who called her mother “pretty little Jane Foot from Canton.” Her grandfather, an Episcopal minister in Greenville, was friends with Will Percy, author of Lanterns on the Levee. She grew up hearing the music of the pulpit and the choir and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, her father’s favorite. In her last years, when her eyesight had failed, she asked us to read poetry to her.
She loved the old poets, the poets of her youth. Those were the words she understood and to which she turned for comfort, but in her core she was a gentle radical, as restless for change, for the world to turn, for those she loved to come to a deeper understanding of one another, as any beat poet or angry rapper. She had the soul of a poet. She dealt in the concrete as a means of understanding abstraction. She was wise but patient in the way she dispensed her wisdom. She gave us time to see her meaning, to let us find it for ourselves. Only now that she is gone are some of those lessons becoming clear.
We think she would be pleased to think that in her name others will be leaving clues along the way as she did. Who better than today’s new poets? They are the ones who look ahead and show us with a flicker of white tail disappearing into the woods the way a path may lie.