Since there are so many facets of the history that people of African descent have made in this country, I’ve decided to continue my “Black History 365″ series from my poetry blog here on my AfrocentriqueAZ blog. In honor of National Poetry Month, I’ll be posting a new Black poet every day this month. Every Wednesday for the months after that I will post other Black history figures (I’ll go back to my “first Black” series).
Today’s poet is Lucille Clifton (video at the end of the post)
From Famous Poets and Poems and Wikipedia:
Lucille Clifton (June 27, 1936, Depew, New York – February 13, 2010, Baltimore, Maryland) was an American poet, writer, and educator from Buffalo, New York. From 1979 to 1985 she was Poet Laureate of Maryland. Frequent topics in her poetry include the celebration of her African-American heritage, women’s experience, and the female body.
Lucille Clifton (born Thelma Lucille Sayles) grew up in Buffalo, New York, and graduated from Fosdick-Masten Park High School in 1953. She went on to study on a scholarship at Howard University from 1953 to 1955, and after leaving over poor grades, studied at the State University of New York at Fredonia (near Buffalo).
In 1958, she married Fred James Clifton, a professor of philosophy at the University of Buffalo, and a sculptor whose carvings depicted African faces. Lucille 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). Writer Ishmael Reed introduced Mrs. Clifton to her husband Fred while he was organizing the Buffalo Community Drama Workshop. Fred and Lucille Clifton starred in the group’s version of The Glass Menagerie which was called “poetic and sensitive” by the Buffalo Evening News.
In 1966, Reed took some of Clifton’s poems to Langston Hughes, who included them in his anthology The Poetry of the Negro. In 1967, the Cliftons moved to Baltimore, Maryland. Her first poetry collection, Good Times, was published in 1969, and listed by the New York Times as one of the year’s ten best books. From 1971 to 1974, Clifton was poet-in-residence at Coppin State College in Baltimore. From 1979 to 1985, she was Poet Laureate of the state of Maryland. From 1982 to 1983, she was visiting writer at the Columbia University School of the Arts and at George Washington University. In 1984, her husband died of cancer.
From 1985 to 1989, Clifton was a professor of literature and creative writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She was Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. From 1995 to 1999, she was a visiting professor at Columbia University. In 2006, she was a fellow at Dartmouth College.
Her series of children’s books about a young black boy began with 1970’s Some of the Days of Everett Anderson. Everett Anderson, a recurring character in many of her books, spoke in authentic African-American dialect and dealt with real life social problems. Her work features in anthologies such as My Black Me: A Beginning Book of Black Poetry (ed. Arnold Adoff), A Poem of Her Own: Voices of American Women Yesterday and Today (ed. Catherine Clinton), Black Stars: African American Women Writers (ed. Brenda Scott Wilkinson) and Bedrock: Writers on the Wonders of Geology (Ed. Lauret E. Savoy, Eldridge M. Moores, and Judith E. Moores (Trinity University Press). Studies about her life and writings include Wild Blessings: The Poetry of Lucille Clifton (LSU Press, 2004) by Hilary Holladay, and Lucille Clifton: Her Life and Letters (Praeger, 2006) by Mary Jane Lupton.