15 May

Wednesday, May 15, 6:30–9:30 p.m. ET (eastern time)

Lucille Clifton's Sankofa Poetics: A Seminar with Honorée Jeffers


Online (via Zoom)

Registration required:
1 session / $125

In this class, professor Honorée Jeffers will examine the ways in which the great poet Lucille Clifton (1936–2010) was an enthusiastic—and essential—participant in the Black Arts Movement. The Black Arts Movement, a radical literary tradition of the 1960s and 1970s, was concerned with Africana history, family, and culture; Black American political and racial justice; and (to a lesser extent) Africana hoodoo/root/spell-working—all of which are contained in what Jeffers calls Clifton's Sankofa poetics.

Sankofa is a symbol in the Adinkra iconographic system of West Africa. Within Adinkra, symbols correspond to words, proverbs, and/or metaphysical notions. The short definition of Sankofa refers to a proverb: “It is not a taboo to return and fetch it when you forget.” Sankofa serves as a critical metaphor, one that can be applied to Black poetry throughout the Africana diaspora—and especially to Lucille Clifton’s work.

In this three-hour seminar, students will read Clifton’s poems, interviews, and critical/scholarly works written about her poetry to identify her process(es) of writing within Sankofa poetics.

A novelist, poet, critic, and scholar, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers's biography of Lucille Clifton is forthcoming from Knopf. Her fifth book of poetry, The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan, 2020), was longlisted for the National Book Award in Poetry and won the NAACP Image Award for Literary Work: Poetry, as well as the Lenore Marshall Prize in Poetry. Jeffers’s first novel, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois (Harper 2021), was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club, longlisted for the National Book Award in Fiction, included on President Barack Obama’s Book Recommendations for 2021, and included in 2021 year-end lists from the New York Times, the Washington Post, TIME, and several other newspapers and magazines. Love Songs won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in Fiction, and the First Novelist’s Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Currently, Jeffers is the Paul and Carol Daube Sutton Professor of English at University of Oklahoma.

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