More on the Poetry and Poetics of Lucille Clifton

The Community of Writers is honored to present a short course on Lucille Clifton, led by Kazim Ali

In 2022, Kazim Ali offered his original four-part course on the work of Lucille Clifton for the Community of Writers Writers Annex. Following the success of that course and the many requests he had for written versions of his lectures–which he had given off the cuff, drawing from nearly two decades of reading, teaching, reciting, and otherwise engaging with Clifton’s work–Kazim focused his energy on developing an expanding the four lectures into a book-length study of Clifton’s work. This second iteration of the class will draw from Kazim’s newly published volume Black Buffalo Woman: An Introduction to the Poetry and Poetics of Lucille Clifton, and will include a sneak peek at some of Clifton’s as-yet-unpublished poems which Kazim found in the Clifton Archives while doing research for his book.

Once again in four parts, Kazim will lead participants through close readings of a number of Clifton poems, focusing on such topics as Clifton’s language, her engagement with history, mythology, and popular culture, her use of poetic form and prosody, and a tracing of various trajectories throughout her body of work, including the way she engaged with some of the most traumatic events of her life. Participants will receive a copy of Black Buffalo Woman: An Introduction to the Poetry and Poetics of Lucille Clifton, which will be used as the primary text for the course. The course will cover all new material, so those who took the first course are welcome to return and new students are especially encouraged.

For information about viewing the recordings of Ali’s first short course on Clifton, send us an email.

Dates & General Course Plan:

Online Thursdays from January 23 to February 13, 2025.

Main sessions run from 4 pm-6 pm (Pacific) with optional discussion groups to follow.

  • Thursday, January 23, 2025 
    • The Language of Lucille Clifton: Diction, Structure and Prosody
  • Thursday, January 30, 2025 
    • Coming Home from the Picture Show: Lucille Clifton and Popular Culture
  • Thursday, February 6, 2025 
    • Dark Lucille: How Secrets Unfold
  • Thursday, February 13, 2025 
    • The Afterlife of Lucille Clifton: The Spirit-Writing and Unpublished Poems

Note: For those who are interested, intimate Zoom discussion groups (Virtual Houses) will meet after each session and on subsequent Saturdays at 10 AM.

Course Text

INCLUDED IN COURSE TUITION AT 20% DISCOUNT: Black Buffalo Woman: An Introduction to the Poetry & Poetics of Lucille Clifton

Ships September 24 for registrations prior to the publication date. 

Registrations after September 24 will receive the text within a few weeks.

Handouts for each session will be posted online. Additional reading materials, including essays and poems will be added.

Recommended Text: The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton

Photo Credit: Tanya Rosen Jones

Kazim Ali‘s books encompass multiple genres, including the volumes of poetry Inquisition, Sky Ward, winner of the Ohioana Book Award in Poetry; The Far Mosque, winner of Alice James Books’ New England/New York Award; The Fortieth DayAll One’s Blue; and the cross-genre texts Bright Felon and Wind Instrument. His novels include the recently published The Secret Room: A String Quartet and among his books of essays are the hybrid memoir Silver Road: Essays, Maps & Calligraphies and Fasting for Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice. He is also an accomplished translator (of Marguerite Duras, Sohrab Sepehri, Ananda Devi, Mahmoud Chokrollahi and others) and an editor of several anthologies and books of criticism. His newest books are a volume of three long poems entitled The Voice of Sheila Chandra and a memoir of his Canadian childhood, Northern Light.

Photo Credit: Tracy Hall

Lucille Clifton was one of the most distinguished, decorated and beloved poets of her time. She was a staff poet of the Community of Writers for nearly twenty years, first in 1991 and returning regularly until her death in 2010. She won the National Book Award for Poetry for Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 and was the first African American female recipient of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement from the Poetry Foundation. Ms. Clifton received many additional honors throughout her career, including the Discovery Award from the New York YW/YMHA Poetry Center in 1969 for her first collection Good Times, a 1976 Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for the television special “Free to Be You and Me,” a Lannan Literary Award in 1994, and the Robert Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America in 2010. She was named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library in 1996, served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1999 to 2005, and was elected a Fellow in Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1987, she became the first author to have two books of poetry – Good Woman and Next – chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in the same year. She was also the author of eighteen children’s books, and in 1984 received the Coretta Scott King Award from the American Library Association for her book Everett Anderson’s Good-bye. Her Memoir, Generations: A Memoir, was published posthumously in 2021 by NYRB Classics with an introduction by Tracy K. Smith.

BOA Editions

Thank you to BOA Editions for generously sponsoring this course and fulfilling orders of Ali’s book to all participants at a special discounted rate.

Kazim And Lucille at the Community of Writers Poetry Program in 1998

What to Expect:

  • Four, two-hour weekly sessions online with assigned reading. The group can be large, depending on the course.
  • In the first 60 or 70 minutes, Ali will explore and supply background on the previously assigned readings.
  • In the second part, Ali will address questions and widen the discussion. Participant questions and comments will be submitted in the chat.
  • Optional small (8-10 person) discussion groups will be available to those with the energy and interest after the formal session is over. Discussion guides will be provided.
  • These sessions will be recorded, and will be available for later viewing by registered participants for 30 days following the final session


Tuition includes a copy of the course text, Black Buffalo Woman, forthcoming from BOA Editions

  • Early Bird Tuition including course text is $235 (deadline: midnight on Thursday, August 15)
  • Standard Tuition including course text is $259.
  • Limited financial aid available. Please contact us if needed.
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Online, and year-round, The Writers’ Annex is composed of short courses, seminars, workshops, and more. Our vision is to bring the creative insight and experience of our staff poets and prose writers to our community in all seasons, not just in the summertime, and not just here in our Valley.  Our online offerings will address such topics as eco-poetics, translation, and generative sessions. Some will be one or two days, some will be weekend intensives, and some will meet weekly for a month or two. In addition, we hope these offerings will help offset the tremendous expenses we face as an organization for our traditional in-person events in Olympic Valley.   Join our Mailing List