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Lucille Clifton (1936–2010)

Author of Everett Anderson's Goodbye

Includes the names: Lucille Clifton, Lucille Thelma Clifton

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Lucille Clifton was born in Depew, New York on June 27, 1936. She was the first person in her family to graduate from high school. She attended Howard University, where she majored in drama, for two years before deciding that she would rather write poetry. Her first poetry collection Good Times was published in 1969. During her lifetime, she wrote 11 books of poetry and 20 children's books. She won numerous awards including the Coretta Scott King Award for Everett Anderson's Good-bye in 1984, the National Book Award for Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000 in 2001, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize award in 2007. She was the Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1979 to 1985. She died after a long battle with cancer and other illnesses on February 13, 2010 at the age of 73. (Bowker Author Biography) — biography from Everett Anderson's Goodbye… (more)
Everett Anderson's Goodbye 439 copies, 45 reviews
The Book of Light 174 copies, 1 review
The Lucky Stone 158 copies, 3 reviews
Three Wishes 84 copies, 2 reviews
Generations: A memoir 76 copies, 2 reviews
Mercy 55 copies, 1 review
The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (Contributor) 1,213 copies, 9 reviews
Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry (Contributor) 751 copies, 10 reviews
Free to Be... You and Me (Contributor) 465 copies, 8 reviews
Contemporary American Poetry (Contributor, some editions) 375 copies, 2 reviews
The Black Poets (Contributor) 344 copies, 1 review
The Best American Poetry 2000 (Contributor) 211 copies
The Best American Poetry 1999 (Contributor) 208 copies
Soul Looks Back in Wonder (Contributor) 196 copies, 5 reviews
The Art of Losing (Contributor) 189 copies, 20 reviews
American Religious Poems: An Anthology (Contributor) 159 copies, 1 review
The Penguin Book of Women's Humour (Contributor) 114 copies
Poems from the Women's Movement (Contributor) 107 copies
The 100 Best African American Poems (Contributor) 93 copies, 5 reviews
Gods and Mortals: Modern Poems on Classical Myths (Contributor) 68 copies, 2 reviews
The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink (Contributor) 62 copies, 1 review
The Ecopoetry Anthology (Contributor) 44 copies, 1 review
The Poetry Cure (Contributor) 19 copies, 1 review
Pathetic Literature (Contributor) 16 copies, 1 review
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Short biography
Lucille Clifton was born in Depew, New York. Named after her great-grandmother who, according to her father, was the first black woman to be legally hanged in the state of Virginia, she was raised with two half-sisters and a brother. Growing up, she recalls hearing the word 'nigger'. She knew that it wasn't her, and she thought, "'Well, I'll have to suspect everything they say, won't I?' And I've always been a very curious person, interested in a lot of things, and, so, in writing, I never thought I would be a poet" (qtd in Davis).

Clifton was awarded a scholarship to Howard University, becoming the first person in her family to finish high school and consider college, entering as a drama major. After two years she lost her scholarship and told her father, "I don't need that stuff. I'm going to write poems. I can do what I want to do! I'm from Dahomey women!" It was at this point that Clifton's writing began.

In a writer's group she met a man named Ishmael Reed, who showed some of her poems to Langston Hughes. He was the first to publish Clifton, premiering her work in the anthology Poetry of the Negro. Her first complete book of poems, Good Times, was published in 1969. She has been twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her first children's book, Some of the Days of Everett Anderson (1970), launched her into writing children's stories. Clifton was recently interviewed as part of "The Language of Life," with Bill Moyers, a major video series exploring the American phenomenon of public poetry. She has been honored as Poet Laureate of Maryland, and currently teaches as a Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Lucille's poetry is straightforward and makes use of vernacular speech. Her poems contain compassion and a high level of emotion, which is uniquely American. Her African roots and her personal history have become the basis of her writing. Other common themes include family, death, birth, and religion. She says, "the proper subject matter for poetry is life" (qtd in Davis). She asserts that the reason to write poetry is to assert the importance of being human.

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LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alum

Lucille Clifton's book The Art of Losing was available from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

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