For years, decades even, supporters of the arts have celebrated Lucille Clifton, who died in 2010, as a beloved literary figure. She is cherished and referred to as a kind of cultural mother even. Toni Morrison did not necessarily disagree with the praises, but she found them lacking. She wrote that:
I am startled by the silence in these interpretations of her work. There are no references to her intellect, imagination, scholarship or her risk-taking manipulation of language. To me she is not the big mama/big sister of racial reassurance and self-empowerment. I read her skill as that emanating from an astute, profound intellect--characteristics mostly absent from her reviews. The personal courage of the woman cannot be gainsaid, but it should not function as a substitute for piercing insight and bracing intelligence.What is sometimes downplayed is how prolific she was over the course of her career. She published well over 20 books and hundreds of poems.
Moreover, her designation as a Black Arts era writer is regularly overlooked. Her first publications appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s, right in line with the flourishing arts produced by African American at that time. Morrison was the editor of her first collection.
After Clifton's death, an edited collection of Clifton's work was published providing us with a clearer sense of her tremendous output, which includes her contributions to Black Book History.
• Black Book History, February 2019