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Lucille Clifton Biography | Poet

Photo of Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton (born June 27, 1936) is an American poet 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.


Lucille Clifton (born Lucille Sayles) was born June 27, 1936, and raised in Depew, New York . She attended Howard University from 1953 to 1955 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 (1958-1960), and as literature assistant in the Office of Education in Washington, D.C. (1960-1971). From 1971 to 1974 she was poet-in-residence at Coppin State College in Baltimore, and in 1979 she was named Poet Laureate of the state of Maryland.



In 1969 Cifton's first book, a collection of poetry titled Good Times, was published and rated by The New York Times as one of the year's 10 best books. Clifton worked in state and federal government positions until 1971, when she became a writer in residence at the Historically Black College Coppin State College in Baltimore, Maryland. Remaining at Coppin until 1974, she produced two further 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 in mind, 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 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. In 1988, she became the first author to have two books of poetry chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

Lucille Clifton: Poems | Best Poems | Short Poems | Quotes