Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lucille Clifton 1936 - 2010

Lucille Clifton, National Book Award winner and former poet laureate of Maryland, died Saturday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was 73.

Mrs. Clifton, a resident of Columbia, was a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and was honored on many other occasions during her career. She was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Maryland and Towson University. She was the poet-in-resident at Coppin State College between 1971 and 1974. The second woman and the first African American to serve as poet laureate of Maryland, she was also the first black woman to win the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize award, in 2007, among the most prestigious awards that can be won by an American poet. It included at $100,000.00 stipend.

Besides her eleven poetry collections, Mrs. Clifton published 20 children's books, and her poems have appeared in more than 100 anthologies, according to her biography.

Mrs. Clifton and her husband, Fred Clifton, a philosophy professor at the University of Buffalo, moved to Baltimore in the 1960s and had six children. Her husband died in the 1984. (source The Baltimore Sun February 14, 2010)



Carol said...

I had the great good fortune to read with Ms. Clifton in the audience. She was a contest judge, I'd been in the contest.

Though I hadn't won anything, I suspect she may have remembered my submission because of its naivete. I hadn't really understood contest the rules, was nominated by a local organization and hadn't ever actually seen the rules, had the rules just generally (inaccurately) verbally sketched for me. So my submission, I realized later, surely had to be a one of a kind collection. Raw, young-writer, self-revelatory. Wrong for the contest. Probably the worst one.

Lucille Clifton was the most engaged audience member at that reading, her face reflecting the emotions of which my words spoke, her nods cheering me on. Her very presence radiated encouragement. As long as I live, I will remember that presence, the wonderful spirit she radiated. And I will give thanks for how she so briefly and gently touched my life.

Her poetry is marvelous. Accessible, yet thoughtful and deeply felt, and her marvelously technique proficient. Everything feels seamless, effortless,in her poems. Her voice lives on.

Patricia said...

Great story! I suspect Ms. Clifton recognized your "raw, young-writer" talent. She sounds like a delightful person and she will be missed.