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Princeton Poetry Festival
Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton is one of the most beloved and respected figures in American poetry today, widely acclaimed for her powerful explorations of race, womanhood, spirituality, and mortality. A major voice since her debut collection Good Times, in 1969, she has continued to portray the experiences of being an African-American, a woman, and a human with clarity and elegance. Her language, often described as "deceptively simple," strikes a nuanced balance between complexity of thought and economy of words. She has published twelve collections of her poetry, one autobiographical prose work and nineteen children’s books, with more on the way. She received the National Book Award for Poetry for her book, Blessing the Boats (BOA 2000). Her most recent book of poems is Voices  (BOA 2008); other titles include Ordinary Woman, Mercy, Quilting, and The Book of Light. Her work has been anthologized in close to 200 anthologies of poetry.

Ms. Clifton has received many fellowships and awards for her poetry collections and children’s books, including the 2007 Ruth Lilly Prize, Shelley Memorial Prize, a Charity Randall Citation, an Emmy Award from the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, selection as a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library, a Lannan Achievement Award in Poetry, and a Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award. Ms. Clifton served as distinguished professor of Humanities and holder of the Hilda C. Landers Endowed chair in the Liberal Arts at St. Mary’s College of Maryland until her retirement in the fall of 2005. She continues to serve St. Mary’s as professor emeritus and friend to the college. She served as Poet Laureate of the State of Maryland from 1975-1985. She has appeared on The Today Show, Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt, The Power of the Word with Bill Moyers and Nightline with Ted Koppel. Ms. Clifton serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the only poet to have had two books nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in the same year.

At turns sad, exuberant, and angry, her voice has always been one of great empathy and wisdom, believing in the redemptive gifts of faith and art. She asserts that the reason to write poetry is to assert the importance of being human. Alternately consoling, stimulating, and emotionally devastating, Clifton's poems are unforgettable. Her readings draw large and enthusiastic audiences.

Photo by St. Mary's College of Maryland

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