Fifty years ago, Lucille Clifton read at the 92Y as one of the 1969 Discovery Award winners, a prize that honors poets who have not yet published a book. Many of the poems she read that night, (listen to the recording!) were published in her first book, Good Times. In the years following, Clifton appeared at 92Y five times. On her final visit, a reading with W. S. Merwin in 2008, she inscribed our signature book with the message that gives this festival its title: Joy and Hope and all that stuff!
Clifton’s poetry is as persistent in its joy as it is insistent in its attention. To read her is to read pleasure and reckoning, both. She looks back, and forward and around, and, with a vision uniquely Black, woman and American, investigates what she sees for what is worthy in it and what demands improvement.
Beginning on Clifton’s birthday, June 27, 2019, we published a new poetry collection celebrating her extraordinary life and legacy. We hope you enjoy these poems by some of our nation’s best poets, including several Youth Poet Laureates, as they explore what, and how, Clifton teaches us to reimagine and rediscover, to debunk and debone in our history, our current and our future.