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Unterberg Poetry Center

Lucille Clifton

1969 Discovery / The Nation

Lucille Clifton was born in Depew, New York. Her books of poetry are Good Times (1969), published the same year she won the Discovery Award; Good News About the Earth (1972); An Ordinary Woman (1974); Two-Headed Woman (1980); Next: New Poems (1987); Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 (1991); The Book of Light (1993); The Terrible Stories (1996); Blessing the Boats: New and Collected Poems 1988-2000 (2000), for which she won the National Book Award; Mercy (2004); Voices (2008); and The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton (2012). Her works of prose are Generations: A Memoir (1976) and Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980 (1987). She also wrote more than twenty books for children, including All Us Come Cross the Water (1973), My Friend Jacob (1980) and the “Everett Anderson” series. From 1995-2005, she served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Her honors included fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts; an Emmy Award; the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize; the Shelley Memorial Prize and the Lannan Literary Award. She was Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1975-85 and was a teacher in the humanities department at St. Mary’s College in Baltimore. Clifton appeared a total of six times at the Poetry Center; her final appearance was in November 2008 with W. S. Merwin. She died in 2010 at the age of seventy-three.
Clifton read the poem below during the 1969 Discovery Winners’ Reading. It was published that fall as part of her first book, Good Times.

  • Good Times

    my daddy has paid the rent
    and the insurance man is gone
    and the lights is back on
    and my uncle brud has hit
    for one dollar straight
    and they is good times
    good times
    good times

    my mama has made bread
    and grampaw has come
    and everybody is drunk
    and dancing in the kitchen
    and singing in the kitchen
    of these is good times
    good times
    good times

    oh children think about the
    good times

  • From the Winners’ Reading: “Good Times,” by Lucille Clifton

    • Lucille Clifton reads “Good Times”

    Listen to the full recording of Clifton’s 1969 Winners’ Reading.

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