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Famous Poet of the Day: Lucille Clifton

Posted on the 19 September 2011 by Sistabig @therealSharnell

Famous Poet of the Day: Lucille Clifton

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

Her series of children’s books about a young black boy began with 1970′s Some of the Days of Everett Anderson. Everett Anderson, a recurring character in many of her books, spoke in authentic African-American dialect and dealt with real life social problems.

Her book “Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir, 1969-1980” (BOA, 1987) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1988.

Besides producing a dozen volumes of poetry, Ms. Clifton wrote many well-received books of prose and verse for children that centered on the African-American experience.

Widely anthologized, Ms. Clifton’s poetry combined an intense, sometimes earthy voice with a streamlined economy of language. (She frequently did away with punctuation and capitalization as so much unwanted baggage.) Her subject matter spanned large ethical questions like slavery and its legacy and more daily concerns like family and community.

Her poems were frequently autobiographical. She could write unflinchingly of personal hardship, including being sexually abused by her father when she was a girl and her struggles with cancer and kidney failure as an adult.

Homage to My Hips

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

I am Accused of Tending to the Past

i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother’s itch
took it to breast
and named it
she is more human now,
learning languages everyday,
remembering faces, names and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.

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