Poet Lucille Clifton gets her due

  • Lucille Clifton, poet laureate of Maryland and National Book Award winner, on Oct. 22, 1981.
Lucille Clifton, poet laureate of Maryland and National Book… (Jed Kirschbaum, The Evening…)
October 20, 2012|By Dave Rosenthal

A new book celebrates the career of former Maryland poet laureate Lucille Clifton, including her thoughts on topics from Sunday dinner to cancer, her hips to racism. In the Baltimore Sun, Mary McCauley highlights “The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton, 1965-2010,” which includes a foreword by Toni Morrison.

McCauley offers a Q&A with poet Michael Glaser, who co-edited the book with Kevin Young, curator of the Emory University archives where Clifton’s papers are held. Here's a sample:

Q: Didn’t you discover an entire, unpublished book of poems that had been tossed in the trash?

A: That’s an interesting story. When Lucille was retiring from St. Mary’s in 2007, I was helping her move out of her office and brought her several wastepaper baskets. After she left, I thought, “This is a really important writer, and there’s all this trash, and maybe I should go through it before something valuable gets thrown out.” “Book of Days” was one of the things I found there, and it is published in this collection for the first time. There were no other copies.

Here's a sampling of Clifton's work, a poem entitled "Sunday Dinner":

One wants

in a fantastic time

the certainty of

chicken popping in grease

the truth of potatoes

steaming the panes and


gold and predictable as

heroes in history

melting over all.

If you want to read more of Clifton's words, the Potery Foundation offers a substantial sampling.

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