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Remebering Lucille Clifton
Lucille Clifton, National Book Awards
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February 26, 2010

"Things don't fall apart. Things hold. Lines connect in thin ways that last and last and lives become generations made out of pictures and words just kept."-Lucille Clifton

Poet Lucille Clifton died on February 13, 2010. Bill Moyers recalls the poet and her work. Clifton was featured in the Bill Moyers programs POWER OF THE WORD, THE LANGUAGE OF LIFE, FOOLING WITH WORDS and SOUNDS OF POETRY.

BILL MOYERS: The long arc of morality that bends toward justice leads not only through the courthouse and the statehouse but out on the streets and in pages of poetry and prose. Luckily for the rest of us, there are writers who in words both beautiful and bold can express rage at injustice. But they don't stop there, they help us experience sorrow and joy through an intimate knowledge of tempestuous human nature.

We lost one of those gifted people the other day — one of our most popular poets, my friend, Lucille Clifton.

Lucille Clifton's poetry, legendary for its sparseness of word and punctuation, spoke unflinchingly of personal hardship, the history of oppression and the human condition. She was a standout in several programs we produced over the years on the wonders of poetry.

Lucille Clifton learned to love language as a child listening to poems written by her mother, a woman who never finished grade school.

Inheriting that love of language and the spirit of her mom, Lucille Clifton wrote poetry of her own for twenty years before she was actually published. But with her first collections of poems, she quickly gained recognition that just kept growing over time. Over a long and prolific career Clifton published more than 30 books that probed the indignations of slavery, celebrated the day-to-day events of life and community, and chronicled, with frank and poignant sensuality the frailties and pleasures of the human body.

Lucille Clifton was a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize — in the same year, 1988 —something that had never happened before.

In 2000, she received the National Book Award for BLESSING THE BOAT: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, and then in 2007, became the First African American woman to receive The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize - one of American poetry's most prestigious poetry honors.

Lucille Clifton Was 73.
Related Media:
W.S. Merwin
On the heels of winning this year's Pulitzer prize for poetry, W.S. Merwin joins Bill Moyers for a wide-ranging conversation about language, his writing process, the natural world, and the insights gleaned from a much-lauded career of more than 50 years. W.S. Merwin is the author of 21 volumes of poetry and won his second Pulitzer Prize for his most recent collection, THE SHADOW OF SIRIUS. (June 26, 2009)

Nikki Giovanni
Bill Moyers sits down with renowned poet Nikki Giovanni, whose 27 books have spanned the themes of race, politics, sex and violence. (February 13, 2009)

Robert Bly
Bill Moyers talks with poet Robert Bly about greed in America, divinity and happiness. (August 31, 2007)

Martín Espada
Bill Moyers talks with poet Martín Espada about the power of words to effect social change. (July 20, 2007)

OPoems: Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace
Read excerpts of writings collected from Maxine Hong Kingston's workshops with veterans and their families. (May 25, 2007)

Reading Rumi
Poet Coleman Barks is also known for his translations of the great 13th century Islamic poet and teacher, Jalaladdin Rumi. In 2003, Barks appeared on NOW WITH BILL MOYERS, reading three of Rumi's poems. Not only is Rumi's work heard on radio throughout the Arab world, he is a best-selling poet in America.

Remembering Sekou Sundiata
Poet, musician and historian Sekou Sundiata, featured in THE LANGUAGE OF LIFE. (July 20, 2007)

References and Reading:
Lucille Clifton on
Biography and audio and text versions of selected Clifton poems.

Lucille Clifton
Biography, video of Clifton reading and text versions of selected Clifton poems from Clifton's publisher.

Modern American Poetry
Biography and text versions of selected Clifton poems.

"Poet Lucille Clifton Reads A Poem About the Days Surrounding Sept. 11," PBS NEWSHOUR.

"Lucille Clifton, Poet Who Explored Intricacies of Black Lives, Dies at 73." Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, February 17, 2010.

Bill Moyers special from 1999, with poetry readings and interviews from Lucille Clifton, Stanley Kunitz, Mark Doty and Kurt Lamkin, among others.


Celebrate poetry with selections from the JOURNAL and the Moyers Digital Archives.

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Bill Moyers celebrates the poet and her work.

Celebrate poetry with selections from the JOURNAL and the Moyers Digital Archives.

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