Special Podcast For Sunday, June 27: A Circle of Sisters for Lucille Clifton


The birthday of Lucille Clifton, world-renowned poet and human being, is almost upon us.  As most of you know, she passed on February 13 of this year, but she is still with me everyday, strong.

This upcoming Sunday she would have been 74-years-old. In honor of Miss Lucille’s birthday, I will conduct a special celebration podcast of Miss Lucille and her life on Sunday at 7:30 PM EASTERN on Talkshoe.com with a gathering of Black women who loved her.

There will be five of us on the podcast: Sidney Clifton (Miss Lucille’s first-born child), and Sister-poets Elizabeth Alexander, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Kelly Norman Ellis, and me.

Sidebar: Now, I hope you don’t think that by only having five women that I’m saying we are the only folks who knew how to love Miss Lucille! There were literally thousands of people whose lives she touched. It’s just, we’d be on that podcast for a whole month if we had everyone who loved her testifying.– I just want to say that, because I don’t want nobody’s feathers to be ruffled.

We five will read poems by Miss Lucille and/or poems that we have written for her, and we will give remembrances of her, and talk about what she meant to each of us individually.

More importantly we plan to have a really, really good time remembering this special lady, because Miss Lucille surely liked to have a good time herself. We want to show the human side of Miss Lucille, not just the side that everyone knew, which is the famous poet.

That’s why that picture of her by photographer extraordinaire Rachel Eliza Griffiths is included above.  (Click on this for Rachel’s website). Isn’t that such a pretty picture? Rachel captured the giggling girl in Miss Lucille, the one that is having a ball, even if only inside herself—the girl that lives in all women of all complexions. That’s the Miss Lucille I know and still love—and still talk to on a regular basis.

I want to say that this podcast is about Miss Lucille the person, and so I won’t give a long author bio. But if you would like to read one, here are links to her obituary in The New York Times, a bio of her on Wikipedia, another bio on the Poetry Foundation Website , and a bio on the Academy of American Poets , an organization for which Miss Lucille served as the very first African American Chancellor they ever had.

But HERE is the most superlative obituary that I have read, written by Elizabeth Alexander for the The New Yorker. If you really want to know about the works of Lucille Clifton and what she meant to other poets, this is the only article you really need to read.

Word.

Below is a short bio of Miss Lucille, as well as the bios of the ladies who will be joining me for the podcast.

Lucille Clifton was born Thelma Lucille Sayles on June 27, 1936 to Thelma and Samuel Sayles. In 1958, she married the professor Fred James Clifton and they had six children: Sidney, Channing, Fredericka, Gillian, Graham, and Alexia. In 1966, Ishmael Reed took Miss Lucille’s poetry to Langston Hughes who included them in his anthology The Poetry Of The Negro. Her first poetry collection Good Times was published in 1969, beginning a long, distinguished career as the author of poetry books and children’s literature. She won many awards—too numerous to mention here—but in addition to her human, empathetic and supremely-crafted poetry celebrating the African American and woman’s experience– and her approachable personality, no matter how many accolades she won–what separates her from the rest of American poets that she is the only poet EVER to hold the distinction of  being nominated for two books in the same year for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, for her books Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir and Next. Miss Lucille passed into the realm of the ancestors on February 13, 2010, leaving behind four living children and ten grandchildren and countless fans of her poetry.

Sidney Clifton is an Emmy-nominated animation and multimedia writer-producer, mother of four, and Lucille Clifton’s firstborn child. Born in Buffalo, NY and raised in Baltimore, MD; Sidney currently resides in Woodland Hills, CA where she is developing and producing multiple television, film, book and online projects. She is honored to be part of this celebration.

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher and current chair of the African American Studies Department at Yale University. She has published five books of poems; her book American Sublime (2005) was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. She has won numerous other awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Guggenheim fellowship. Most recently, she delivered her original poem “Praise Song for the Day” at the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Kelly Norman Ellis is an associate professor of English and associate director of the MFA in Creative Writing program at Chicago State University. Her work has appeared in Sisterfire: Black Womanist Fiction and Prose, Spirit and Flame; The Ringing Ear, and Essence Magazine, among others. Her first collection of poetry, Tougaloo Blues was published by Third World Press. She is a Cave Canem Poetry Fellow and founding member of the Affrilachian Poets.

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is assistant professor of English at Cornell University. She is the author of ]Open Interval[, finalist for the 2009 National Book Award, and Black Swan, winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, and coauthor, with Elizabeth Alexander, of the chapbook Poems in Conversation and a Conversation. Her poems have appeared in African American Review, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Rattapallax, Shenandoah, and in several anthologies, including Bum Rush the Page and Role Call.

Nikky Finney is the author of three books of poetry, On Wings Made of Gauze, Rice, which won a PEN America Open Book Award, and The World is Round; she is the editor of The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. She also the author of Heartwood, a collection of short stories, and is working on a novel. She has been published in several anthologies and was the scriptwriter for the documentary “For Posterity’s Sake,” the story of Harlem photographers Morgan and Marvin Smith. She is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Kentucky.

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers–that’s me! And why take up space telling you all about me; this is my blog, so wouldn’t that would seem rather conceited?:-) If you don’t know about me, you can just click this link here to read my bio or click the “About” button above!

I hope you will tune in for this special celebration of Lucille Clifton on Sunday, June 27 at 7:30PM EASTERN STANDARD TIME!  Here is the link to the podcast on Talkshoe.com!

3 thoughts on “Special Podcast For Sunday, June 27: A Circle of Sisters for Lucille Clifton

  1. Must be something magical about that day. Nzadi Keita is planning a rememberance/memorial/reading in honor of Ms. Lucille that same evening at Robin’s Books in Philly. The stars are aligning. Some folks better get inspired.

  2. What makes poetry so wonderful is the fact that it involves all of life, every concern, every desire, and every feeling. If something has some great significance to a person’s existence, then it has a great significance in poetry as well.

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