closing out napomo with lucille clifton

30 Apr


lucille clifton, as radiant as ever.

lucille clifton, as radiant as ever.

hello sk fans,


lma on the rush here, trying to squeeze in a final post for national poetry month. as promised, i am featuring lucille clifton, a contemporary american poet whose work focused on her african-american heritage, the female body and the women’s experience.


lucille was born thelma lucille thayer in upstate ny, excelled in school and won a scholarship to howard university. she left howard amidst poor grades. perhaps it’s because no one ever told lucille about capital letters. whatever the cause, my pub can relate to her plight.  lucille attended the local state university of new york (suny).


she continued writing and sharing her poetry, and became friends with poet ishmael reed, who introduced lucille to university of buffalo professor fred clifton, and her poetry to langston hughes. what a good friend ishmael turned out to be!


being an excellent poet is one thing, getting your excellent poems in the right hands is another. see, flunking out of school can lead to great things! we all should skip class.


lucille had both a wonderful marriage and a brilliant career as a writer. she wrote scores of poems and children’s books. she is also the first person to have two books of poems be nominated as finalists for the pulitzer prize in the same year!


again, shred that syllabus and get to that keg party. you can sleep in tomorrow. see what lies ahead for those who do!


lucille was the recipient of numerous awards, among them being named the poet laureate of maryland. besides being a stellar wordsmith, lucille was very classy and socially active. her poems are relatively short,free of capitalization, and speak volumes. writing, she said, was her way of hoping. she died of cancer in february 2010. we will share two of lucille’s poems here.


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!

i need to know their names                

i need to know their names
those women i would have walked with
jauntily the way men go in groups
swinging their arms, and the ones
those sweating women whom i would have joined
after a hard game to chew the fat
what would we have called each other laughing
joking into our beer? where are my gangs,
my teams, my mislaid sisters?
all the women who could have known me,
where in the world are their names?

xo, lma

p.s. on the off-chance her mum actually reads sk, we should clarify that my pub never flunked out of school. she did, however, have one lively (and fun!)  semester which prompted a letter from the dean strongly suggesting she stop by a classroom once in awhile. too bad she did not flunk out. sk could have a couple of pulitzers by now.



6 Responses to “closing out napomo with lucille clifton”

  1. Bruce Thiesen April 30, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    in under the wire. leaving behind the uppercase letters cut writing and editing time and left you with plenty of time to meet the deadline. is your pub’s mom just now learning about the special attention from the school’s administration? i hope pub had a lot of fun that particular school term.

    • Louisa May Alcatt May 1, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

      ha ha bruce, believe it or not going all lower-case is a lot of work! who knew we were so conditioned? saved no time!! as for that semester, we blame it on david byrne, jimmy cliff, the newly departed mr. marley and the ramones. bad, bad influences. you should stay away. did we mention our mutual friend, warren?

      in keeping with lucille cliftin spirit, my pub did meet a great group of students at the nearby university that summer where she took a few worthwhile gpa-boosters. that group introduced her to the likes of lucille, maya and other great poets. pretty cool how things work out, isn’t it, xo lma

      • Bruce Thiesen May 2, 2014 at 9:35 am #

        a summer of discovery can set up an autumn of content. pub got it right.

        warren could cast a nice light. i still look.

  2. Sheila May 1, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    that’s a great hips poem and true that we can learn so much outside of school too (and at those keg parties)!

    • Louisa May Alcatt May 1, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      did you notice the ‘hip’ poem is written in the shape of a woman? lc was so talented, xo

      • Sheila May 1, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

        hahah – i didn’t notice but that makes it more fun! xo

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