Series 2
Writings by Clifton, circa 1950-2008
Boxes 15-31 and 85; OP 2-3

Scope and Content Note

The writings of Lucille Clifton found in this series span roughly from the early 1950s to 2008 and are comprised of personal notebooks, poetry, both collected and uncollected, book length works, including numerous children's stories, and a memoir. In addition, the series also contains a range of shorter prose, including short stories, essays, interviews, speeches, book reviews and poem translations. Lastly, the series also holds a substantial amount of Clifton's astrological or spirit-based manuscripts and multiple examples of her spirit writing.

The notebook subseries (Subseries 2.1) features dated poetry quotations from Clifton, complete poems, prose, and an essay on phenomenology by Fred Clifton.

The poems subseries (Subseries 2.2) includes manuscript and typescript drafts of Clifton's poetry, which are arranged in chronological order. The subseries also contains a considerable number of Clifton's uncollected poems, which are arranged here in alphabetical order. Counted among Clifton's uncollected poetry are multiple 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," providing researcher's useful insights into both Clifton's prolificacy and her creative judgment.

Clifton's book-length works (Subseries 2.3a) include nineteen of her children's books, including her most popular children's series about an African American boy, Everett Anderson. These books, which contain a mixture of poetry and prose, follow young Everett, as he learns lessons about death, bullying, changing family dynamics, and his black heritage. Multiple drafts of Clifton's unpublished children's stories, centering on race relations and conceptions of kindness and beauty, are also included. In addition to her juvenile fiction, this subseries also contains notes, research materials, and multiple manuscript and typescript drafts of Clifton's 1976 memoir Generations. This prose piece celebrates autobiographical accounts of her extended family tree on both her mother's and father's sides.

Clifton's other prose (Subseries 2.3b) features a range of short works, including short stories, essays, interviews, speeches, book reviews and poem translations. Many of Clifton's essays and short stories were published in popular magazines and focus on personal and familial struggles. Researchers will also find galley proofs of Clifton's translation of two poems, "Africa" and "Black Woman," from French into English. Also included are translations by others of Clifton's poetry

The final subseries (2.3c) is comprised of Clifton's spirit writing, which was mostly written during the mid 1970s and 1980s. Spirit writing, generically defined as the practice of unconscious writing with no regard to what is actually being transcribed, was used by Clifton more specifically to communicate with the spirit world. Researchers will find complete works with personal explanations of how she came to spirit channeling, descriptions of her connections with the dead, and transcriptions of poems Clifton claims to have received from now dead poets. Most of Clifton's spirit writing, however, is indecipherable.

Drafts of poems by Clifton can also be found in Born digital materials (Series 11).

Arrangement Note

Organized into three subseries: (2.1) Notebooks, (2.2) Poetry, and (2.3) Prose and translations.

Description of Subseries