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Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 (American Poets Continuum) Paperback – April 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Clifton's poems owe a great deal to oral tradition. Her work is wonderfully musical and benefits greatly from being read aloud: "It is hard to remain human on a day/ when birds perch weeping/ in the trees and the squirrel eyes/ do not look away but the dog ones do/ in pity." Her keen sense of rhythm, of the sound, tone, and texture of words, is delightful, a rare find in this day and age. The language is crystal clear and deceptively accessible. The poems are personal, but the distant thunder of history rumbles behind every line. As she says on seeing a photograph: "is it the cut glass/ of their eyes/ looking up toward/ the new gnarled branch/ of the black man/ hanging from a tree?" Clifton's work hearkens back to the days of the Black Arts Movement and sheds light on the new black aesthetic. These are economical slices of ordinary life, celebrations, if you will, of African American existence. With simple language and common sense, she writes of grace, character, and race by way of the personal and familiar. Clifton's voice, her unique vision and wisdom, make this book essential for any serious poetry collection.
-Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Lucille Clifton won the 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Award. Her book, Blessing the Boats (BOA Editions), won the 2000 National Book Award for Poetry. Two of Clifton's BOA poetry collections were chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Clifton's awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and an Emmy Award.
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Product Details

  • Series: American Poets Continuum (Book 59)
  • Paperback: 145 pages
  • Publisher: BOA Editions Ltd. (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880238888
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880238882
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #406,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lucille Clifton was one of the most distinguished, decorated and beloved poets of her time. She won the National Book Award for Poetry for "Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000" and was the first African American female recipient of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement from the Poetry Foundation. Ms. Clifton received many additional honors throughout her career, including the Discovery Award from the New York YW/YMHA Poetry Center in 1969 for her first collection "Good Times," a 1976 Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for the television special "Free to Be You and Me," a Lannan Literary Award in 1994, and the Robert Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America in 2010. Her honors and awards give testa­ment to the universality of her unique and resonant voice. She was named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library in 1996, served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1999 to 2005, and was elected a Fellow in Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1987, she became the first author to have two books of poetry - "Good Woman" and "Next" - chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in the same year. She was also the author of eighteen children's books, and in 1984 received the Coretta Scott King Award from the American Library Association for her book "Everett Anderson's Good-bye."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By crumbcake on May 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Clifton's poems enter sacred places, not only by their subject matter (human suffering at biblical proportions, or biblical suffering at human proportions), but because of their method of engagement--a direct and immediate engagement with what is "human."
The section of new poems (which begins the book) opens with a devastating poem about recent school shootings, and continues with poems more blisteringly honest and raw (if such can even be conceived by long time readers!) than any Clifton has written before. Some of the previous themes (childhood abuse, cancer, biblical re-tellings) are re-visited at such an excruciating level of intensity, that one thinks Clifton is preparing to leave certain subjects (for a time, perhaps) and launch herself into the next great "Era" of her writing life.
The book is a book of transformations, of all the "boats" in our lives, that carry us from place to place, and we are blessed indeed to be accompanied on our long journeys by Lucille Clifton.
The nineteen new poems are followed by sixteen from "Next," twenty three from "Quilting," fifteen from "the book of ligtht," and eighteen from "the terrible stories." Clifton's book are assembled so artfully as books that it is hard to imagine how she (or her editor) made the choices for the volume. In the end, they prioritized cohesivesness as a volume, choosing whole sequences from the earlier books, rather than the "Greatest Hits" approach. The result is that some readers (including this humble one) may find some favorite poems from the earlier volumes missing, (this is particularly true of the choices from "Next") but the the book, in and of itself has its own true spirit.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on September 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
I have admired Lucille Clifton's clear, strong poetic voice for many years, and I was really impressed by her book "Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000." Clifton covers a lot of ground in this collection: racial violence, surviving cancer, language, drug addiction, the female body, and more. There are many poems inspired by biblical characters. Some highlights are as follows:
"Sorrow Song": a global vision of human evil and suffering. "female": a poem that declares "there is an amazon in us." "shapeshifter poems": a powerful sequence. "here be dragons": a poem that begins "So many languages have fallen / off the edge of the world / into the dragon's mouth." I also loved the poems that celebrate (and sometimes mourn) the female body: "poem in praise of menstruation," "poem to my uterus," "to my last period," etc.
When she's at her strongest, Clifton attains a truly prophetic quality. I recommend this book both to those who've read and loved her for years as well as to newcomers to this important poetic voice. If you like Clifton, I also recommend the writings of June Jordan and Audre Lorde.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on March 19, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some books excel beyond the 5-star limit offered here. This is one of them. Lucille Clifton has a magical, inexplicable way bring the most unpoetic subjects to life--including incest, racism, Lucifer, Eve, and the human body. Clifton's poems exude truth and she isn't afraid to write from the somewhat underrepresented perspective of an African American woman. Even the poems that seem to have a narrow audience (Wishes for Sons, To my Last Period) manage to have a universal quality about them. I've been extremely fortunate to hear her read twice--the only thing that improves upon the purchase of this book is hearing the sublime Ms. Clifton in person. Her voice captivates and reasonates from the pages of her books. Anyone who finds these poems offensive should consider the element of truth in each and every one of them.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
Lucille Clifton, Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 (BOA Editions, 2000)

There's a lot of good stuff in this volume. Especially fine are the mythological poems from Quilting (1991), some of Clifton's best work, delicate yet earthy language full of wonderful images and gentle surprises:

"when she woke up

she was terrible.

under his mouth her mouth

turned red and warm

then almost crimson as the coals

smothered and forgotten

in the grate.

she had been gone so long.

there was much to unlearn.

she opened her eyes.

he was the first thing she saw

and she blamed him.

("Sleeping Beauty")

That's serious poetry right there. It tells you all you need to know, and not a whit more. Granted, not every piece in the volume stands up to these, but then, there aren't that many volumes of poetry every written where everything is of the same quality (and in most of those, every word is utterly, ineffably horrible). When Lucille Clifton is on her game, as you can see above, she's one of the better poets going today; if you're not acquainted with her stuff, you should be. *** ½
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
Lucille Clifton is gone but her legacy of simple, honestly felt, seemingly spontaneously written poems about the live of ordinary people who become icons almost by accident will live on, especially through the collection of her works in this award winning volume BLESSING THE BOATS: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS 1988-2000. Her powers of observation of those aspects of our society that are usually shuttered by embarrassment are here made crystalline. She dares to share her own bruised life but rises above the incidents of horror to make us feel the beauty of living because of her courage. While there are many beautifully written poems in this excellent collection, a National Book Award winner, one particularly lingers in the minds of those who read it. ' jasper texas 1998' is dedicated to James Byrd, Jr. - a black man chained to a pickup by three white men and dragged until he was decapitated - and Clifton's elegy is as follows:

jasper texas 1998

i am a man's head hunched in the road.
i was chosen to speak by the members
of my body. the arm as it pulled away
pointed toward me, the hand opened once
and was gone.

why and why and why
should i call a white man brother?
who is the human in this place,
the thing that is dragged or the dragger?
what does my daughter say?

the sun is a blister overhead.
if i were alive i could not bear it.
the townsfolk sing we shall overcome
while hope bleeds slowly from my mouth
into the dirt that covers us all.
i am done with this dust. i am done.

Poetry of this power changes lives, changes attitudes, changes mankind. Lucille Clifton will be missed in body but her truth seeking spirit will be always with us. Grady Harp, February 10
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