Lucille Clifton was an American poet, writer, and educator from Buffalo, New York. From 1979 to 1985 she was Poet Laureate of Maryland. Clifton was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
Clifton (born Thelma Lucille Sayles, in Depew, New York) grew up in Buffalo, New York, and graduated from Fosdick-Masten Park High School in 1953. She attended Howard University with a scholarship from 1953 to 1955, leaving to study at the State University of New York at Fredonia (near Buffalo).
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 a visiting professor at Columbia University. In 2006, she was a fellow at Dartmouth College.
In 1988, Clifton became the first author to have two books of poetry named finalists for one year’s Pulitzer Prize. (The award dates from 1918, the announcement of finalists from 1980.) She won the 1991/1992 Shelley Memorial Award, the 1996 Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, and for Blessing the Boats: New and Collected Poems 1988–2000 the 2000 National Book Award for Poetry.
Won’t You Celebrate With Me
by Lucille Clifton, 1936 – 2010
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
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