Lucille Clifton

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what did i see to be except myself?

Lucille Clifton (June 27, 1936February 13, 2010) was an American poet, writer, and educator from Buffalo, New York. From 1979 to 1985 she was Poet Laureate of Maryland. Clifton was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.


  • Other than “the unanswerable question”… It’s the heart speaking, maybe that, maybe the human heart speaking.
  • … A lot of women have borne a lot of things; a lot of people have borne a lot of things. There’s a certain kind of human that I want to be. There is not shame in my life. There is certainly misfortune, but I’m not the only one. I do know that. And sometimes, one of the things poetry can do is say to an audience: you are not alone. It can also speak for those who have not yet found their voice to speak. That’s part of the human condition. And if we’re going to talk about humans, why are we just going to talk about the pretty ones.


  • born in babylon
    both nonwhite and woman
    what did i see to be except myself?
    • The Book of Light (1993), "song at midnight", lines 17–19

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