Trailblazing Poet Lucille Clifton Dead At 73

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Tell Me More remembers poet and author Lucille Clifton. In 2007, Clifton became the first black woman to win the prestigious Ruth Lilly Prize for lifetime achievement by the Poetry Foundation. She was also Maryland's poet laureate from 1979 to 1985, the first African-American and the second woman to do so. Clifton died Saturday past weekend. She was 73.


Finally, we want to take a moment to appreciate the life of poet Lucille Clifton. In 2007, she became the first black woman to win the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, among the most prestigious awards that can be won by an American poet. Here she reads during an NPR interview in 2007, from her poem titled "Cream of Wheat."

Ms. LUCILLE CLIFTON (Poet): Sometimes at night we stroll the market aisles, Ben and me and Jemima. They walk in front remembering this and that. I lag behind trying to remove my chef's cap wondering about whatever pictured me, then left me personless. Rastus. I read in an old paper I was called rastus, but no mother ever gave that to her son. Towards dawn we stroll back to our shelves, our boxes, Ben and Jemima and me. We pose and smile, I simmer without a name.

MARTIN: Her work was known for her incisive social commentary as well as accessibility, what The Baltimore Sun called a mix of profundity, earthiness and humor. Lucille Clifton was poet laureate of Maryland from 1979 to 1985. She was the first African-American to serve in that role and only the second woman, and she was a National Book Award winner. She wrote 11 books of poetry and 20 children's book. Lucille Clifton died this weekend at the age of 73. She had cancer.

And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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