Lucille Clifton Tribute


(June 27, 1936 — February 13, 2010)



Kazim Ali, “Refuge Temple: Thinking About Lucille Clifton”

Lucille was a gateway to me to confronting my own spiritual heritage. Her biblical poems and other persona poems taught me that history was a living thing, that its meaning grew and changes and that our relationship to the traditions of our nation or our family that defined us so strongly could actually shift and change, that I could redefine their meanings.


Betts_GlitterGuts.SQUAREjpg“Insights on Lucille Clifton from a Conversation with Tara Betts”
“One time, I was in an audience, and I asked a question—she didn’t know I was there, but she heard my voice, and her head literally cocked to the side…“Tara, I didn’t know you were here.” To be heard—everybody talks about being seen now, but to be heard that way let me know that I meant something to her, that she remembered me that way. People want to say, “I’m so seen” right now, but she heard me. And I can’t say everybody is a listener like that.”

avatarSidney Clifton, “Reclaiming Her Voice”

“Through this evolution, our house remained a sanctuary; a righteous womb nurturing artists and activists; truthtellers and revolutionaries. No one was turned away if they stepped to us right. No one who stepped off incorrectly did so twice. Mom and Dad’s metaphysical combination healed the sick and straightened out the crooked. There was historical, hysterical, freedom-inducing magic in that house.”

G_M_DudleySQUARE“Interview with Clifton Archivist, Gabrielle M. Dudley”

“I believe Clifton’s archival collection and body of work offer us evidence of a life lived through creativity and fortitude. Her collection, much like her life and poetry, is personal and complicated. Anyone going through the collection might be arrested by the beauty of her words, be saddened by her sense of loss, and delighted by her affection towards friends and family. Clifton’s papers are not a monument to celebrate Clifton’s life, though deserving, but a testament to a woman’s work that continues to challenge us to deepen our understanding of ourselves and of our world.”

AshleyJonesSQUARE.jpgAshley M. Jones, “‘Anything She Didn’t Want to Do, She Don’t Have To’: Finding Voice, Agency, and Blackness in the Life and Poems of Lucille Clifton”

“What does it mean to be in someone’s legacy? It means being obedient to the spirit. To the ancestors. To the poetry. It means being a vessel and a ship. It means loving a world that does not always love you.”


Shara SQUAREShara McCallum, “Silence and the Poems of Lucille Clifton”

In my early education as a poet, there were a handful of contemporary poets from whose poems I gleaned much about the power of silence. Lucille Clifton tops that list. Clifton’s poems keenly demonstrate how much can be gained from an aesthetic that places intense value on silence and, its kin, spareness. 


KamilahAishaMoonSQUARE.jpgKamilah Aisha Moon, “Visitation: A Poets’ Gathering”

“The spiritual dimension to her work astounds…she was famous for saying, “something in me knows how to write poetry better than I do,” and not getting in the way of it. She understood herself as a vessel, a channeler transcribing what it meant to be a soul in her particular body, having the life she was having. She knew the key difference between prescribing and proscribing in her poems. She listened to what was said and wasn’t said, encouraging us to do the same. She gave us permission to be and keep it real. To be shameless, unabashed. To wonder and be amazed. To decipher dreams. To rage eloquently and elegantly. To claim and proclaim!”