Lucille Clifton’s poetry, legendary for its sparseness of word and punctuation, spoke unflinchingly of personal hardship, the history of oppression and the human condition.
Clifton learned to love language as a child listening to poems written by her mother, a woman who never finished grade school. Inheriting that love of language and the spirit of her mom, Lucille Clifton wrote poetry of her own for 20 years before she was actually published. But with her first collections of poems, she quickly gained recognition that kept growing over time. During her long and prolific career, Clifton published more than 30 books that probed the indignations of slavery, celebrated the day-to-day events of life and community, and chronicled, with frank and poignant sensuality, the frailties and pleasures of the human body.
Lucille Clifton was a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the same year, 1988, something that had never happened before.
In 2000, she received the National Book Award for Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, and then in 2007, became the First African American woman to receive The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, one of American poetry’s most prestigious honors.
Lucille Clifton died on February 13, 2010. She was 73.