Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize

We are pleased to announce the winner of the 2019 Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize. The final judge selected: Probable Cause by Olatunde Osinaike. Gratitude to Rickey Laurentiis who served as the final judge.


Probable Cause


Is it just me or is this a continent of sanity I’ve wrought

out of this house party? I won’t fuss about it – each

noise complaint readying to be spout, each becoming that plummets


into another log recording our feelgood sierra as disturbing

the peace– so clarify whose peace. All my life I’ve been sharp, been a black

key shunted into the peripheral. The world off-white to your liking, made in


the similitude of founding fathers bothered by the thought of us.

Norms change by the day and dichotomy of agency I haven’t yet reached.

I sing of rosewater, senna, and mulberry leaves. I have no further a vantage


point to consider the fourth from. The more improbable, the more problems.

And that’s word to my stubble, my boundless biopic-to-be. And that’s word to

the month of February in this, a new leap year. Vowels round as the cellulite


on me, beneath the steeple I sat. The conversations were all that and more

as they knocked on my door. Reasonable suspicion dictates no chorus, only

a score of headlights and rap sheets. A preference of scatter, a kind of scat-


less jazz demarcating my ambush in an abandoned meadow. Surely I am

superstitious of the cease and desist for the sugar in my grits. Surely you should

lower your voice when you talk to me – I warrant that. If you’re telling me


that’s reason enough to frisk me, let me get my things first. I won’t be long,

I won’t be brief. The harpsichords know me well. And that’s word to my glove

compartment and whatever else on this earth you shall dust for my prints.



Originally from the West Side of Chicago, Olatunde Osinaike is a Nigerian-American poet and software developer. He is the author of the chapbooks Speech Therapy, a winner in the Atlas Review’s 2019 Chapbook Series (forthcoming), and The New Knew (Thirty West). A Best of the Net, Bettering American Poetry, and Pushcart Prize nominee, his work has been selected as a winner of the Frontier Industry Prize, honorable mention for the Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Award in Poetry, and as a finalist for the Southeast Review Gearhart Poetry Prize and RHINO Poetry Editor’s Prize. His most recent work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in the publications: Prelude, Puerto del Sol, Winter Tangerine, Cosmonauts Avenue, and the Columbia Poetry Review, as well as in the anthologies Best New Poets, 20.35 Africa, and New Poetry from the Midwest.


Previous Winners

Ashley Jones, 2018

Catherine Ntube, 2017

Malcolm Friend, 2016

Carlos Andres Gomez, 2015

Joshua Bennett, 2014

Issa M. Lewis, 2013