Another successful veteran of Sterling Brown’s classroom at Howard University, the prolific poet Lucille Clifton (1936-2010) also produced children’s books and memoirs. Written as she worked for the federal Department of Education in Washington, D.C., her first poems were collected in Good Times, named one of the best books of 1969 by the New York Times. Her verse shared some of the formal hallmarks of Black Arts poetry: “lowercase letters, sparse punctuation, and a lean lexicon of rudimentary but evocative words,” as critic Joycelyn K. Moody describes them. But her sturdy, everyday language, on display in the volumes Good News About the Earth (1972) and An Ordinary Woman (1974), circulated around questions of gender as well as race and entertained her ancestry as a “Dahomey woman.” In 1974, Clifton shared an Emmy Award as a cowriter of the feminist TV special “Free to Be You and Me.” A professor at Coppin State and St. Mary’s College in Maryland, she served as the state’s Poet Laureate from 1979 to 1985. Well before her first book, the FBI opened a file on Clifton in 1958 investigating a case of check fraud.
FBI documents studying Lucille Clifton.
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