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).
Lucille Clifton's poems are compact and self-sufficient...Her revelations then resemble the epiphanies of childhood and early adolescence, when one's lack of preconceptions about the self-allowed for brilliant slippage into the metaphysical, a glimpse into an egoless, utterly thankful and serene world. Common topics in her poetry include the celebration of her African American heritage, and feminist themes, with particular emphasis on the female body
In 1969 Ms Clifton’s first book, a collection of poetry entitled Good Times was published and The New York Times as one of the year's 10 best books. Clifton worked in state and federal government positions until 1971, when she became a writer in residence at the Historically Black College Coppin State College in Baltimore, Maryland. Remaining at Coppin until 1974, she produced two further books of poetry, Good News About the Earth (1972) and An Ordinary Woman (1974). From 1982 to 1983 she was visiting writer at Columbia University School of the Arts and at George Washington University. Afterwards she taught literature and creative writing at the University of California at Santa Cruz (1985) and then at St. Mary's College of Maryland.
Clifton's later poetry collections include Next: New Poems (1987), Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 (1991), and The Terrible Stories (1996). Generations: A Memoir (1976) is a prose piece celebrating her origins, and Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir: 1969-1980 (1987) collects some of her previously published verse.
Clifton's many children's books, written expressly for an African-American audience in mind, include All Us Come Cross the Water (1973), My Friend Jacob (1980), and Three Wishes (1992). She also wrote an award-winning series of books featuring events in the life of Everett Anderson, a young black boy. These include- Some of the Days of Everett Anderson (1970) and Everett Anderson's Goodbye (1983).
Her children's books now total over 20. Besides appearing in over 100 anthologies of poetry, she has come to popular attention through television appearances on the "Today Show", "Sunday Morning", with Charles Kuralt, "Nightline" and Bill Moyers' series, "The Power of the Word".
She received a Creative Writing Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1970 and 1973, and a grant from The American Academy of Poets. She has received the Shelley Memorial Prize, the Charity Randall prize, the Shestack Prize from the American Poetry Review, and an Emmy Award. In 1988, she became the first author to have two books of poetry chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize She received a Creative Writing Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1970 and 1973, and a grant from The American Academy of Poets. She has received the Shelley Memorial Prize, the Charity Randall prize, the Shestack Prize from the American Poetry Review, and an Emmy Award. In 1988, she became the first author to have two books of poetry chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize (Good Woman: and Next :). She is the author of numerous children's books and books of poetry, including The Book of Light, Next, terrible stories, Two Headed Woman and Good News About the Earth. She has been the Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary's College of Maryland from 1991 to the present, and lives in Columbia Maryland and has raised six children. After a long battle with cancer, Lucille Clifton died on February 13, 2010, at the age of 73.