Lucille Clifton

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Lucille Clifton (born June 27, 1936) is an American poet, writer, and educator from New York. Common topics in her poetry include the celebration of her African American heritage, and feminist themes, with particular emphasis on the female body; for instance, some of her more well known works include homage to my hips and poem to my uterus. A biography of Clifton was published in 2006.[1]


  • 1 Life
  • 2 Poetry and Prose
  • 3 Awards
  • 4 Bibliography
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


Lucille Clifton (born Thelma Lucille Sayles) was born June 27, 1936, and raised in Depew, New York. Her high school career was completed at Fosdick-Masten Park High School. She attended Howard University from 1953 to 1955 and graduated from the State University of New York at Fredonia (near Buffalo) in 1955. In 1958 she married Fred James Clifton. She worked as a claims clerk in the New York State Division of Employment, Buffalo (1958-1960), and as literature assistant in the Office of Education in Washington, D.C. (1960-1971). Her first poetry collection Good Times was published in 1969, and listed by The New York Times as one of the year's 10 best books. Clifton left From 1971 to 1974 she was poet-in-residence at Coppin State College in Baltimore. From 1979-1985 she was Poet Laureate of the state of Maryland.[2] From 1982 to 1983 she was visiting writer at Columbia University School of the Arts and at George Washington University. From 1985-1989, Clifton was a professor of literature and creative writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz.[3] Since 1991, she has been Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Poetry and Prose

In 1969 Clifton's first book, a collection of poetry titled Good Times, was published; in that year it was listed by The New York Times as one of the year's 10 best books. In 1971, Clifton left her civil service position to become a writer in residence at Coppin State College, and during her tenure there she published her next two volumes of poetry Good News About the Earth (1972) and An Ordinary Woman (1974).

Clifton's later poetry collections include Next: New Poems (1987), Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 (1991), and The Terrible Stories (1996). Generations: A Memoir (1976) is a prose piece celebrating her origins, and Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir: 1969-1980 (1987) collects some of her previously published verse.

Clifton's many children's books, written expressly for an African-American audience in mind,[citation needed] include All Us Come Cross the Water (1973), My Friend Jacob (1980), and Three Wishes (1992). She also wrote an award-winning series of books featuring events in the life of Everett Anderson, a young black boy. These include Some of the Days of Everett Anderson (1970) and Everett Anderson's Goodbye (1983). Her children's books now total over 20. Besides appearing in over 100 anthologies of poetry, she has come to popular attention through television appearances on the "Today Show", "Sunday Morning", with Charles Kuralt, "Nightline" and Bill Moyers' series, "The Power of the Word".


She received a Creative Writing Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1970 and 1973, and a grant from the Academy of American Poets. She has received the Shelley Memorial Award, the Charity Randall prize, the Shestack Prize from the American Poetry Review, and an Emmy Award. In 1988, she became the first author to have two books of poetry chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. She received the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1996. From 1999-2005, she served on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets. In 2007, Clifton won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize; the $100,000 prize honors a living U.S. poet whose "lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition."



  • Good Times (1969) - selected by the New York Times as one of the year's ten best books
  • Good News About the Earth (1972)
  • An Ordinary Woman (1974)
  • Two-Headed Woman (1980)
  • Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir: 1969-1980 (BOA Editions, 1987)
  • Next: New Poems (BOA Editions, 1987)
  • Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 (BOA Editions, 1991)
  • The Book of Light (Copper Canyon, 1993)
  • The Terrible Stories (BOA Editions, 1996)
  • Blessing The Boats (BOA Editions, 2000)
  • Mercy (BOA Editions, 2004)


  • Generations: A Memoir (1976)
  1. ^ Lupton, Mary Jane (2006). Lucille Clifton : Her Life and Letters (Praeger Publishers). ISBN 978-0275984694.
  2. ^ "Maryland Poets Laureate," webpage of Maryland State Archives, retrieved May 27, 2007.
  3. ^ Maryland State Archives and Maryland Commission for Women. "Lucille Clifton, Maryland Women's Hall of Fame," webpage from the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame retrieved May 28, 2007.
  • The Poetry Foundation's announcement of Clifton's Ruth Lilly Prize and a short biography of her.
  • Online Clifton page
  • " 'Since you asked..,' with Lucille Clifton" for the WGBH series, New Television Workshop
  • "Lucille Clifton reads 'Turning' " for the WGBH series, New Television Workshop
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