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Sat, 06.27.1936

Lucille Clifton has the gift of verse

Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton was born on this date in 1936. She is an African American poet and author.

Born and raised in Depew, New York (a suburb of Buffalo), Lucille Sayles Clifton attended Howard University for three years and graduated from the State University of New York College 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, for two years and as literature assistant in the Office of Education in Washington, D.C. (1960-1971). In 1969, Cifton's first book, a collection of poetry titled “Good Times,” was published and The New York Times reported it as one of the year's 10 best books.

From 1971 to 1974, she was poet-in-residence at Coppin State College, and in 1979, she was named Poet Laureate of the state of Maryland. During this time she produced two additional books of poetry, “Good News About the Earth” (1972) and “An Ordinary Woman” (1974). From 1982 to 1983, she was visiting writer at Columbia University School of the Arts and at George Washington University. Afterwards she taught literature and creative writing at the University of California at Santa Cruz (1985) and then at St.Mary's College of Maryland.

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, 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: “Some of the Days of Everett Anderson” (1970) and “Everett Anderson's Goodbye” (1983). Her poetry has appeared in over 100 anthologies of poetry, and she came 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 American Academy of Poets. She has received the Shelley Memorial Prize, the Charity Randall prize, the Shestack Prize from the American Poetry Review, and an Emmy Award. She is the author of numerous children's books and books of poetry, including “The Book of Light,” “Next, Terrible Stories,” “Two Headed Woman,” and “Good News About the Earth.” She has been the Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary's College of Maryland from 1991 to the present.

Shed lives in Columbia, Maryland, and has raised six children.

Reference:
The Poetry of Black America
Anthology of the 20th Century.
Edited by Arnold Adoff, introduction by Gwendolyn Bennett
Copyright 1973, Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN 0-06-020089-8

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