Lucille Clifton Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

In addition to her poetry, Lucille Clifton wrote prose, often for children but also for adults. Generations: A Memoir (1976), is included as a part of Good Woman. She began publishing books for children in 1970 with Some of the Days of Everett Anderson, short poems in a picture-book format that spawned a series about the life of a young black boy. The Times They Used to Be (1974) is written as a narrative poem. She wrote other picture books in prose: The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring (1973), All Us Come Cross the Water (1973), My Brother Fine with Me (1975), Three Wishes (1976), and Amifika (1977), as well as a short novel, The Lucky Stone (1979). In response to questions her own six children had, Clifton wrote The Black BC’s (1970), an alphabet book that blends poetry with prose. A departure from her usual perspective, Sonora Beautiful (1981) features a white girl as the protagonist.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

In 2007, Lucille Clifton became the first African American to be awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation in recognition of her lifetime achievement. In 1988, she became the only poet ever to have two books, Next and Good Woman, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in the same year. Clifton won the National Book Award for Blessing the Boats in 2000; previously, she was a National Book Award finalist for The Terrible Stories. She also won the Coretta Scott King Award for Everett Anderson’s Goodbye in 1984. Other honors include an Emmy Award from the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Charity Randall Citation (1991), the Shelley Memorial Award (1992), a grant from the Eric Mathieu King Fund (1996), the Shestack Prize from American Poetry Review (1988), the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry (1996), the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award (1998), the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for lifetime achievement (2001), the Langston Hughes Award (2003), the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America (2010), and three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1969, 1970, 1972). She held honorary degrees from the University of Maryland and Towson State University. Clifton was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and served as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (1999-2005). In 1991, Clifton became a distinguished professor of humanities at St. Mary’s College in Columbia, Maryland. She retired in 2007.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Anaporte-Easton, Jean. “Healing Our Wounds: The Direction of Difference in the Poetry of Lucille Clifton and Judith Johnson.” Mid-American Review 14, no. 2 (1994). This essay suggests that Clifton’s voice is distinctive because of her use of physical imagery, particularly of the body, in order to write a work that seeks to unite it with both mind and spirit.

Bennett, Bruce. “Preservation Poets.” Review of Quilting. The New York Times Book Review, March 1, 1992, pp. 22-23. Poet and critic Bennett discusses Clifton’s Quilting, noting that the first four sections are named after traditional quilting designs, yet the final section, “prayer,” consists of a single poem. He believes readers familiar with Clifton’s work will witness recurrent themes section by section: importance of history on the present and future, celebration of women, and life as a personal journey of spiritual growth and discovery.

Clifton, Lucille. “A Conversation with Lucille Clifton.” Interview by Alexs Pate. Black Renaissance 8, no. 2/3 (Summer, 2008): 12-19. Author and professor Pate interviews Clifton as part of a series of conversations with authors who represent excellence in African American literature sponsored by the Givens Foundation for African American Literature and the University of Minnesota. Clifton discusses many...

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