in the inner city

Clifton, Lucille

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Dec-10-1996
  • Last revised: Dec-01-2006


This 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.

Primary Source

good woman: poems and a memoir, 1969-1980



Place Published

Brockport, N.Y.


1987 (paperback)