Sept. 11 , 2006
Emory acquires archive of poet Clifton
BY elaine Justice
The University has acquired the literary archive of award-winning poet, memoirist and children’s book author Lucille Clifton. Clifton has been nominated twice for a National Book Award, winning in 2000 for “Blessing the Boats,” her recent selected poems.
Kevin Young, curator of Emory’s Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, notes that Clifton has been at the center of several pivotal movements in contemporary American literature including the black arts movement, the women’s movement, as well as the current boom in African American writing. “Her work is not just taught and awarded prizes but beloved,” Young said.
Born near Buffalo, N.Y., Clifton attended Howard University in the 1950s, where she was a classmate of Toni Morrison and studied under Sterling Brown (years later Morrison would serve as editor for Clifton’s memoir, “Generations”). While at Howard, Clifton studied drama, and she performed in the premier of James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner.”
Clifton began writing at a young age, and she sent a selection of her poems to poet Robert Hayden, who was instrumental in getting her first work published. Her first collection, “Good Times,” received the Discovery Award in 1969 and was cited as one of the year’s 10 best books by The New York Times.
Reflecting on that early recognition, Clifton has said, “I had six children, the oldest was seven, and I had never imagined such a thing. But I had taken great care in my work.”
During her distinguished career, Clifton has published 12 collections of poems in addition to children’s books, and she is a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
The Lucille Clifton papers include all of her literary manuscripts; extensive literary correspondence with fellow writers, editors and publishers; and other literary and personal papers. The papers further deepen Emory’s strong holdings of major contemporary poetry archives. Once processing is completed, the papers will be open for research use.