study the masters

Lucille Clifton

like my aunt timmie.it was her iron,or one like hers,that smoothed the sheetsthe master poet slept on.home or hotel, what matters ishe lay himself down on her handiworkand dreamed. she dreamed too, words:some cherokee, some masai and somehuge and particular as hope.if you had heard herchanting as she ironedyou would understand form and lineand discipline and order andamerica.

Feature Date

Series

Selected By

Share This Poem

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

Print This Poem

Share on print
Photo:
Mark Lennihan

Lucille Clifton (1936 – 2010) was an award winning poet, fiction writer, and author of children’s books. Her poetry collection, Blessing the Boats: New & Selected Poems 1988-2000 (BOA, 2000), won the National Book Award for Poetry. In 1988 she became the only author to have two collections selected in the same year as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir (BOA, 1987), and Next: New Poems (BOA, 1987). In 1996, her collection The Terrible Stories (BOA, 1996), was a finalist for the National Book Award. Among her many other awards and accolades are the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Frost Medal, and an Emmy Award. In 2013, her posthumously published collection The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 (BOA, 2012), was awarded the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry.

“Clifton was one of America’s great poets, whose work throughout her lifetime was committed to chronicling and celebrating black lives. The honesty, joy, wisdom, and hope she brought to this task is regenerative.”
—Tracy K. Smith, former U.S. Poet Laureate

“Clifton’s earliest poems could have been written yesterday, and her later works could have been written decades ago. Each poem is always its own world. Her poems touch on the political, the personal, the spiritual.”
—Reginald Dwayne Betts, The New York Times

“Open up to any page and Clifton delivers a word. Whether the subject is roaches, family, death, or surviving, she has a psalm for all occasions. She can create the most complicated magic out of the simplest words.”
—Danez Smith, The Week

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.