Wednesday, April 21, 2010

National Poetry Month: Spotlight on Lucille Clifton

On February 13 of this year, Lucille Clifton passed away. It was on that day that I witnessed an outpouring of grief and the celebration of the life of this talented woman on, of all places, Twitter. It was there, amidst the sorrowful tweets of authors and bloggers, that I first discovered the moving work of this marvelous woman. So, when Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit announced the National Poetry Month Blog Tour, I decided to join in and spotlight Lucille Clifton.

Ms. Clifton was born in 1936 in New York and, with encouragement from her poet mother, began writing stories and poems from an early age. In 1969 Good Times, her first book of poems, was published and was named one of the best ten books of the year by the New York Times. She continued to write poetry throughout her life, serving as the Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1979-1985, was the writer in residence at Coppin State College (now Coppin State University) from 1971-1974, and later taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and St. Mary's College of Maryland. In all, she published thirteen collections of poetry. Her poems have appeared in over 100 anthologies, and she also published twenty children's books.

Here are some of the awards she won during her lifetime:
Awards or no awards, what really brings us here to this celebration of her life is the poetry that she blessed us with. One of my favorites is in the video at the top of this post, and starts with the line "won't you celebrate with me" (published in The Book of Light, 1993). I have enjoyed reading Ms. Clifton's poetry over the past couple of months, but thanks to YouTube I have enjoyed listening to her read it even more. Here are a few more videos of her at poetry readings, reading some more of her poetry--some moving and some humorous:

Lucille Clifton reading "Aunt Jemima" and "Afterblues"

Lucille Clifton: "homage to my hips"

Lucille Clifton: "i was born with twelve fingers"

Lucille Clifton: "Walnut Grove"
Earlier this month, poet Ernie Wormwood wrote about her friend Lucille for the National Poetry Month Blog Tour. Click here to learn a bit about their friendship and to read a poem Ernie read at her memorial.

Have you read any of Lucille Clifton's poetry? Which of her poems is/are your favorite(s)? For those who have loved her poetry for years, what did she mean to you?

And this is where I provide links to the sources that helped me put together this Spotlight on Lucille Clifton:


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