A new book celebrates the career of former Maryland poet laureate Lucille Clifton, including her thoughts on topics from Sunday dinner to cancer, her hips to racism. In the Baltimore Sun, Mary McCauley highlights “The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton, 1965-2010,” which includes a foreword by Toni Morrison.
McCauley offers a Q&A with poet Michael Glaser, who co-edited the book with Kevin Young, curator of the Emory University archives where Clifton’s papers are held. Here's a sample:
Q: Didn’t you discover an entire, unpublished book of poems that had been tossed in the trash?
A: That’s an interesting story. When Lucille was retiring from St. Mary’s in 2007, I was helping her move out of her office and brought her several wastepaper baskets. After she left, I thought, “This is a really important writer, and there’s all this trash, and maybe I should go through it before something valuable gets thrown out.” “Book of Days” was one of the things I found there, and it is published in this collection for the first time. There were no other copies.
Here's a sampling of Clifton's work, a poem entitled "Sunday Dinner":
in a fantastic time
the certainty of
chicken popping in grease
the truth of potatoes
steaming the panes and
gold and predictable as
heroes in history
melting over all.
If you want to read more of Clifton's words, the Potery Foundation offers a substantial sampling.