Clifton, honored poet from Buffalo, dies

By Jay Rey
NEWS STAFF REPORTER
Updated: February 14, 2010, 12:14

Lucille Clifton, born and raised in the Buffalo area before going on to achieve some of the literary world’s highest honors as a major American poet, died Saturday morning at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore at age 73, her sister told The Buffalo News.

Clifton had been ill for some time with some type of infection, and had undergone surgery to remove her colon Friday, but her exact cause of death is still uncertain, Clifton’s sister, Elaine Philip said today.

“We really don’t know,” Philip said, “she had an infection throughout her body, and we don’t know yet where it was coming from.”

Clifton, who lived in Columbia, Md., and was the former poet laureate of the state, was a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee.

She won the National Book Award in 2001 for “Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000,” and in 2007, she became the first African-American woman to be awarded one of the literary world’s highest honors – the Ruth Lilly Prize for lifetime achievement by the Poetry Foundation.

“She is, in my opinion, the greatest poet to have been born and raised in Buffalo in the 20th Century,” said R.D. Pohl, longtime literary contributor to The Buffalo News.
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———-

“oh antic God”

oh antic God
return to me
my mother in her thirties
leaned across the front porch
the huge pillow of her breasts
pressing against the rail
summoning me in for bed.

I am almost the dead woman’s age times two.

I can barely recall her song
the scent of her hands
though her wild hair scratches my dreams
at night. return to me, oh Lord of then
and now, my mother’s calling,
her young voice humming my name.
© Lucille Clifton

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