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:
- Two-Headed Woman received the University of Massachusetts Juniper Prize in 1980. This book was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.
- One of Ms. Clifton's children's books, Everett Anderson's Goodbye received the Coretta Scott King Award in 1984.
- Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir, 1969-1980 was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1988.
- The Poetry Society of America gave Ms. Clifton the Shelley Memorial Award in 1992.
- In 1996, Ms. Clifton was given the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry.
- Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000 received a National Book Award in 2000.
- In 2007 Ms. Clifton became the first African American woman to win the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.
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:
- Margalit Fox, "Lucille Clifton, Poet Who Explored Black Lives, Dies at 73," New York Times 17 February 2010.
- Lucille Clifton Biography at Poets.org - The Academy of American Poets.
- Lucille Clifton Biography at Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.
- Article on Lucille Clifton at Wikipedia. (I know, Wikipedia can be crap, but it had the most comprehensive list of her poetry books that I could find.)