Lucille Clifton papers fully processed and available for research

The Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL) is pleased to announce that the papers of Lucille Clifton, African American poet and children's book author, are fully processed and open to the public. Spanning the years 1930 to 2009, the collection documents Clifton's career as a poet, children's book author, and teacher, her participation in literary organizations and the development of her personal and professional relationships. The papers include correspondence, writings by Clifton, writings by others, teaching and workshop files, subject files, personal papers, printed material, photographs, audiovisual material, and born digital records. The collection also includes the papers of Clifton's husband, Fred Clifton (1934-1984), an artist, author, and community organizer.

Material of interest to scholars will likely include a cache of early manuscripts and typescripts the poet personally rejected as “Old Poems and Ones That May Not be Poems At all And Maybe Should be Thrown Away One Day,” dating from the 1960s, which provide useful insights into Clifton's unpublished work and her creative judgment. In addition, the papers include a significant amount of spirit writings, sometimes referred to as automatic writing, generically defined as the practice of unconscious writing with no regard to what is actually being transcribed. This process was used by Clifton more specifically to communicate with the spirit world. Clifton's spirit writing includes book length drafts in with explanations of how she came to spirit channeling, descriptions of her connections with the dead, and transcriptions of poems Clifton believed to have been passed to her from now dead poets.

Clifton's first volume of poetry, Good Times, was published in 1969 and chosen by The New York Times as one of the ten best books of the year. Other volumes of poetry followed, including Good News About the Earth (1972), and An Ordinary Woman (1974), Next: New Poems (1987), and The Terrible Stories (1996), which was nominated for National Book Award. She has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for the years 1980, 1987, 1988, and 1991, and her Blessing the Boats (2000) won the National Book Award for Poetry.

The finding aid for this collection can be found in the MARBL finding aid database:

By Laura L. Carroll, Manuscript Archivist, Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL)