Lucille Clifton

(June 27, 1936 - February 13, 2010 / Baltimore, Maryland)

Lucille Clifton
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an American writer and educator from Buffalo, New York. From 1979–1985 she was Poet Laureate of Maryland. Common topics in her poetry include the celebration of her African American heritage, and feminist themes, with particular emphasis on the female body.

Life and career

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 ... more »

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Quotations

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  • ''Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language.''
    Lucille Clifton (b. 1936), U.S. poet. As quoted in Listen to Their Voices, ch. 9, by Mickey Pearlman (1993).
  • ''My Mama has made bread
    and Grampaw has come
    and everybody is drunk
    and dancing in the kitchen''
    Lucille Clifton (b. 1936), U.S. poet. Good Times (l. 9-12). . . Poetry of Black America, The; Anthology of the 20th Century. Arnold Adoff, ed. (19...
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Comments about Lucille Clifton

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  • * Sunprincess * (6/27/2014 9:21:00 AM)

    ...............happy birthday Lucille Clifton! ! !

  • Mickey James (2/17/2013 9:47:00 PM)

    come home from the movies
    (Homage and praise for Lucille Clifton’s poem of the same name)


    Lucille,
    We lived on different sides of the tracks.
    But, I am glad we met.
    not then, of course,
    but now.

    It's a whole new world when strangers come in to our lives ain't it?
    Especially when you came into mine!
    Whoah...you had zero patience for my pride or bravado.
    Especially from superior white folk like myself whose parents had jobs and didn’t rely on government checks or drug deals for survival.

    Yeah, it's true, I was afraid to roll down the window
    but,
    of course you knew that.
    but
    I heard you.
    You knew that too.
    Well, you didn't have to say much…so loud you were.
    For a moment I didn’t think I was able to understand anything but you kept on.
    And what you kept on about.
    You constructed it so well, like you were educated.
    It took me by surprise.
    Sure enough did.
    I was just a kid but you changed me forever that day.
    Your words.
    It was as if a bomb one of your gang had planted had exploded inside my gut.
    It was as if your words caught fire and rushed deep inside me taking back the white air I foolishly was brought up to think was mine.
    I gasped but you laid claim to that as well and I was left winded and speechless.
    And your words, they kept on.
    They jumped off pages, made a mockery of my thoughts and then slapped me up side the face
    And demanded I keep my eyes open for this. The kept on.
    Line after line of your soldier words marching right up to my face and slapping me hard.
    I watched my skin change from white to hot pink and then to embarrassing red.
    I was unable to close my eyes and I kept thinking Mommy, Daddy....anyone....help me!
    but your words, they kept coming.
    Your words,
    your beautiful, strong, amazing, poetic soft, lovely soldier words…ket coming
    and they got my attention
    and kept it.
    Slap after slap, in to my skin, like sun burn
    But your words they began to soothe the hot spots in my gut and on my face.
    My being
    And, I remember starting to apologise.
    Apologizing right there on the spot...so many things.
    I didn't even know one could apologise that much but
    when it is sincere...and you are truly sorry
    there is so much you wanna ask forgivemess for.
    and I didn’t know it when I met you but I was sorry.
    But you knew!
    I am sure you tell people I was the King of sorry the day I met you.
    I do!
    I tell them sorry was coming out of me in all forms.
    You know it's bad when you start apologizing for apologizing and I reckon there was alot of that too.
    Yeah, I reckon when you’re from a small town in Wisconsin
    and you're raised a white Catholic
    and you're gay
    there's even more.
    Sorry for ever thinking you were just a nigger.
    I had no idea what that was the day I met you but I thought it anyway.
    And, I knew you knew.
    And you just....refused to be the show.
    You went on reciting your beautiful words
    You know,
    You actually held me together while tearing me apart.
    How did you do that?
    Can I do that one day?
    Can Itry?
    I have time to try anyway.
    After I met you, I stopped going to the movies.
    I started going to the library
    And reading books.
    And, though I am not good at planting flowers as you suggested I have found people like them as gifts...especially the older folk.
    These days
    I buy old LP records and melt them in the stove into the shape of flower pots.
    I put some dark rich soil in them and then take them, along with a packet off seeds, to give as a gift.
    And I think of you.
    How I wish I could have given you such a gift.
    A life for a life you know?
    Of course you know.
    Ha! I would be so scared to actually walk up to you
    but, ya know, I reckon I would do it.
    And I think you would be proud.
    Not of the flowers of course,
    but because when you see me coming
    you'd smile
    yeah, you would
    because you KNEW I already knew how to dance when you met me
    and you taught me to walk like a man.
    So, yeah,
    I reckon when you see me at your door
    there be none of the earlier bullshit like when we first me
    and you would know I know that
    and that's when you would smile.
    and we would just be like old friends
    who,
    long ago,
    lived on different sides of tracks from one another.

    @MickeyJames

  • Tony Nyen (11/25/2009 11:34:00 AM)

    Homage to my Hips

    By Lucille Clifton

    She uses a figurative metaphor “Hips” to represent her personal characteristics. She has powerful, mighty, and magic hips. She is proud of her body. She is an independent woman not to enslave to anyone even her husband. She can sway her husband around like a top. The broader mean is that “man” stand for people. She can sway people conception about her, her race, her identity as a black woman. Her Hips need more space to move around means very little in physical aspect but it has more meaning as she, a black woman, would like to have more freedom, freedom to go outside socially than to be confined in a limited space at home.

  • Tony Nyen (11/25/2009 11:33:00 AM)

    Homage to my Hips

    By Lucille Clifton

    She uses a figurative metaphor “Hips” to represent her personal characteristics. She has powerful, mighty, and magic hips. She is proud of her body. She is an independent woman not to enslave to anyone even her husband. She can sway her husband around like a top. The broader mean is that “man” stand for people. She can sway people conception about her, her race, her identity as a black woman. Her Hips need more space to move around means very little in physical aspect but it has more meaning as she, a black woman, would like to have more freedom, freedom to go outside socially than to be confined in a limited space at home.

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