Lucille Clifton, June 27, 1936 – February 13, 2010

“Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language.”

miss rosie

when I watch you
wrapped up like garbage
sitting, surrounded by the smell
of too old potato peels
when I watch you
in your old man’s shoes
with the little toe cut out
sitting, waiting for your mind
like next week’s grocery
I say
when I watch you
you wet brown bag of a woman
who used to be the best looking gal in Georgia
used to be called the Georgia Rose
I stand up
through your destruction
I stand up

Lucille Clifton


homage to my hips

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

Lucille Clifton


“It was not the animal blood I was hiding from, it was the poet in her…& the terrible stories she could tell.” ~Lucille Clifton

**More Clifton poems here.

Lucille Clifton, one-time poet laureate of Md., dies at 73.

First memory:  Senior year at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School, I entered a short story contest for Baltimore Artscape 1990, judged by Lucille Clifton.  I thought I would write fiction.  Clifton chose my story as the city-wide winner, award given by Mayor Kurt Schmoke at Artscape.  After I won, I began investigating this poet who selected my story, read her work, and was hooked.  Inspired me throughout my years as a Women’s Studies major at Towson University and onward.  Thank you, Lucille Clifton for your generosity and indomitable spirit.


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AMY KING View All →

Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Amy,

    thank you for this Lucille Clifton tribute. A true people’s poet. From the few poems of hers I’ve read I can see she wasn’t the typical ‘academic’ poet-hack who writes for language movements instead of for real life issues. Poetry in the Emily Dickinson tradition.

  2. my friend from U of Md in the 60’s Sid Krome was head of the English Dept a Towson and was very close to Lucille

    Lucille Clifton was frequently, also, around Baltimore?Hopkins in the early 70’s

    a fine person and stellar craftsman (or do I need to be PC and say “craftsperson”?)

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