From the Poetry Center Archive: Discovering Lucille Clifton


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i don’t promise you nothing
but this
what you pawn
i will redeem
what you steal
i will conceal
my private silence to
your public guilt
is all i got

Today we share a recording from Lucille Clifton, who first read at 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center on April 28, 1969, as one of the “Discovery” contest’s earliest winners. The poems she read that night were, as she said, of “people, places and things perhaps we all know.” Some were untitled and “all of them short . . . you might think after a point you might be hearing one long poem, which may be true.” Her first book, Good Times, which includes work presented that night, was published later that fall.

For the past six decades, the “Discovery” competition has launched the career of many of America’s most prominent poets, including John Ashbery, Rosanna Warren, and Susan Mitchell—all final judges of this year’s competition. Four winners are awarded a reading at the Poetry Center, publication in Boston Review and a cash prize. The submission deadline is Friday, January 24, at 5 pm. For guidelines, and to apply, visit