Lucille Clifton, 1936-2010

On behalf of the entire Board of Governors of the Poetry Society of America I want to express our deep sorrow upon the loss of one of the nation's most gifted poets, Lucille Clifton, who passed away on February 13th at the age of 73. This April Lucille was to have been the recipient of the PSA's Centennial Frost Medal. The PSA will honor her as planned on April 1st at the National Arts Club at 7 P.M. with tributes from many fellow poets and friends. I can think of no poet more deserving of the award, given to an individual for "distinguished lifetime achievement in American poetry."

Lucille was known for saying much with few words. Let us honor her by saying simply,thank you. —Ruth Kaplan, President, Poetry Society of America


We at the PSA were so saddened to learn from board member Cornelius Eady of Lucille Clifton's death last Saturday. She had battled health problems for many years with inspiring fortitude, and we were looking forward to our awards ceremony to honor her and to hear her Frost lecture.

In 1991, Lucille received the Shelley Memorial Award from the PSA, and the next year, she joined the PSA's board of Governors, remaining a member until this past December when, urged by the board to step down so as to be eligible for the organization's highest honor, she did so. Lucille was absolutely delighted with the news that she was to be the PSA's 2010 Frost Medalist, and we will miss her deeply on April 1st and in the years to come.

Many of us remember with great gladness the evening of November 18th, 2004, when the PSA joined forces with BOA Editions, Lucille's publisher, HoCoPoLitSo of Columbia, Maryland, the Hunter College MFA Program in Creative Writing, the Lannan Foundation, and St. Mary's College of Maryland in a celebration of her life and work. The participants, who read poems and prose by her as well as poems of their own for her, included Kevin Young, Maxine Kumin, Haki R. Madhubuti, Brenda Hillman, Galway Kinnell, Quincy Troupe, Elizabeth Alexander, Walter Mosley, Robert Hass, Toni Morrison, Li-Young Li, Sharon Olds, Gerald Stern, and Sonia Sanchez. Peter Carey welcomed everyone to the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse on the Hunter Campus and Eve Grubin, former programs director of the PSA, movingly introduced the event, which was completely joyful from beginning to end.

The following poem appeared in the PSA's Poetry in Motion program on the public transportations systems in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago,Fresno, New York, and Portland, and we reprint it here in her honor.—Alice Quinn, Executive Director, Poetry Society of America

Let there be new flowering

let there be new flowering

in the fields let the fields

turn mellow for the men

let the men keep tender

through the time let the time

be wrested from the war

let the war be won

let love be

at the end

The photo of Lucille Clifton is by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

"Let there be new flowering" from good woman: poems and a memoir 1969-1980 by Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1987. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.
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