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A Local Life: Lucille Clifton, 73

Lucille Clifton, Md. poet laureate and National Book Award winner

"Poetry is not my life. My life is my life," said Lucille Clifton, a National Book Award winner and Maryland poet laureate.
"Poetry is not my life. My life is my life," said Lucille Clifton, a National Book Award winner and Maryland poet laureate. (Mark Lennihan/associated Press)

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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 21, 2010

When she was a girl, Lucille Clifton sat on her mother's lap and listened to her recite poetry. Her mother never made it through elementary school, but she knew the power of language, and her poems stayed in her daughter's head forever.

But another memory seared itself in young Lucille's memory, too: when her father said no wife of his would be a poet. She watched as her thwarted mother threw her pages of verse into a burning furnace.

Years later, Ms. Clifton would remember this moment in a poem of her own, which she called "fury":

remember this.

she is standing by

the furnace.

the coals

glisten like rubies.

her hand is crying.

her hand is clutching

a sheaf of papers.

poems.


CONTINUED     1           >

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