Literature Annotations

Clifton, Lucille
in the inner city

Genre Poem
KeywordsAcculturation, African-American Experience, Cross-Cultural Issues, Ordinary Life, Poverty, Society
SummaryThis short poem contrasts perspectives of the places where two different societal groups live. What the larger (white) society considers the inner city is what the poet and her people call "home." At the same time the inner city view of "uptown" is of a lifeless place that has no particular appeal. The poet would rather stay where she is, in this "no place" and "be alive."

Clifton is an African-American poet whose work stands on its own but is also interesting to use in a discussion of cultural diversity, together with poems written by authors representing other ethnic groups, such as Li-Young Lee (Asian-American, see this database), Sandra Cisneros (Mexican-American, see this database), Linda Hogan (Native-American, see this database).

The memoir portion of Clifton's book is worth reading and excerpts worth discussing together with these poems because it gives a lyric sense of what it was like to be a young black woman from an uneducated family, who went on to become a professional author. Her experience speaks to that of many immigrant or minority groups currently making their way in American society.

Sourcegood woman: poems and a memoir, 1969-1980
Edition1987 (paperback)
Place PublishedBrockport, N.Y.
Annotated by Aull, Felice
Date of Entry 06/14/94
Last Revised 12/01/06