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 the University of Buffalo, and a sculptor whose carvings depicted African faces. Lucille worked as a claims clerk in the New York State Division of Employment, Buffalo (1958–1960), and as literature assistant in the Office of Education in Washington, D.C. (1960–1971). Writer Ishmael Reed, introduced Mrs. Clifton to her husband Fred, while he was organizing The Buffalo Community Drama Workshop. Fred and Lucille Clifton starred in the group's version of "The Glass Menagerie" which was called "Poetic and Sensitive" by The Buffalo Evening News.
In 1966, Reed took Mrs. Clifton's poetry to Langston Hughes, who included them in his anthology "The Poetry Of The Negro." In 1967, they moved to Baltimore, Maryland. Her first poetry collection Good Times was published in 1969, and listed by The New York Times as one of the year's 10 best books. From 1971 to 1974, Lucille Clifton was poet-in-residence at Coppin State College in Baltimore. From 1979 to 1985, she was Poet Laureate of the state of Maryland. From 1982 to 1983 she was visiting writer at Columbia University School of the Arts and at George Washington University. In 1984, her husband died of cancer.
From 1985 to 1989, Clifton was a professor of literature and creative writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She was Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary's College of Maryland. From 1995 to 1999, she was Visiting Professor at Columbia University. In 2006, she was a fellow at Dartmouth College.
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