Poet Lucille Clifton Dies After Cancer Battle

February 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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Former Maryland poet laureate and National Book Award winner Lucille Clifton died Saturday at age 73 after a long battle with cancer.

GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: the words of poet Lucille Clifton. The former Maryland poet laureate and National Book Award winner died Saturday, after a long battle with cancer. Clifton, whose work was praised for its moral quality, shared her poetry with us on the fifth anniversary of 9/11.

LUCILLE CLIFTON, poet: My name is Lucille Clifton. I was having lunch at Saint Mary’s College of Maryland on September 11, when I watched on television the devastation of the Twin Towers. And I thought a lot about that and about the fact that my eldest daughter had had a new baby girl five days before, and about love and continuing and fear and hope.

And this poem is a reaction to those thoughts and feelings. The poem is called “September’s Song: A Poem in Seven Days.” And I would like to read two days in the poem.

“Tuesday, 9/11: Thunder and lightning and our world is another place. No day will ever be the same, no blood untouched. They know this storm in otherwheres, Israel, Ireland, Palestine, but God has blessed America, we sing. And God has blessed America to learn that no one is exempt. The world is one. All fear is one, all life, all death all one.

“Sunday Morning, 9/16/01. For Bailey. The Saint Mary’s River flows as
if nothing has happened. I watch it with my coffee, afraid and sad, as are we
all. So many ones to hate, and I, cursed with long memory, cursed with the
desire to understand, have never been good at hating.

“Now this new granddaughter born into a violent world, as if nothing has
happened. And I am consumed with love for all of it, the everydayness of
bravery, of hate, of fear, of tragedy, of death and birth and hope, true as this
river, and especially with love, Bailey Frederica Clifton Goin, for you.”

GWEN IFILL: The words of the late poet Lucille Clifton. She was 73
years old.