Puget Sound English Department

February 14, 2010

Lucille Clifton, 1936-2010

We note with sorrow the passing of American poet Lucille Clifton, Pulitzer Prize Nominee, and Winner of the National Book Award for Blessing the Boats (2000). In addition to her acclaimed poetry, she was an active author of books aimed primarily at African American children. The former Poet Laureate of Maryland, she celebrated the lives of women and African Americans in a powerful, original voice. You can find a fuller description of her work, and some examples of her poetry, at her poets.org page. For a brief introduction, there’s also Jocelyn K. Moody’s biography of Clifton, from Modern American Poetry.

At her passing, we wish for her the blessing conveyed in her own “blessing the boats”:
“may the tide/ that is entering even now/ the lip of our understanding/ carry you out/
beyond the face of fear/… may you/ open your eyes to water/ water waving forever/
and may you in your innocence/ sail through this to that” (full poem here).

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