Lucille Clifton Wins the 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize
September 1, 2007
Poet Lucille Clifton is the winner of the 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Established in 1986 and presented annually by the Poetry Foundation, the $100,000 award is one of the largest literary honors and the most prestigious given to American poets. The prize was presented at an evening ceremony at The Arts Club of Chicago on Wednesday, May 23. Christian Wiman, the editor of Poetry magazine and chair of the selection committee said: “Lucille Clifton is a powerful presence and voice in American poetry. Her poems are at once outraged and tender, small and explosive, sassy and devout. She sounds like no one else, and her achievement looks larger with each passing year.” According to John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation: “For nearly forty years, Clifton has been shaping and chronicling our collective experience through her exquisite poetry.”
Clifton served as the poet laureate of Maryland from 1974 until 1985. She won the National Book Award in 2000 for Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000 (BOA, 2000). She is the author of eleven books of poetry, one autobiographical prose work, and nineteen books for children. Her first volume of poetry, Good Times, was cited by the New York Times as one of 1969’s ten best books. Her most recent collection of poetry is Mercy (BOA, 2004). Clifton was the first author to have two books of poetry chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in the same year, Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir, 1969-1980 and Next: New Poems. Her many honors include the Shelley Memorial Prize, a Charity Randall Citation, an Emmy Award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, a Lannan Achievement Award in Poetry, and selection as a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library. Her work is widely anthologized. Translations of her work appear in many languages, including Norwegian, Spanish, French, Japanese, Hebrew, and Serbian. Clifton holds honorary degrees from several institutions, including Dartmouth College, George Washington University, and Trinity College. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Judges for the 2007 prize were poets Linda Bierds, W. S. Di Piero, and Christian Wiman.