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Mercy (American Poets Continuum) Paperback – September 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

With numerous awards and publication credits under her belt, Lucille Clifton has more than proven her worth over a long poetic career. In her twelfth collection, Clifton again showcases her gifts of a musical ear attuned to everyday language, a Zen-like minimalism of form and sentence structure, and keen perception that sees beyond obvious realities to a deeply spiritual realm. From the wreckage of what is lost in life to such forces as cancer and terrorism, to the redemption of what remains, like birth and otherworldly assistance, Clifton's voice speaks truth and sings hope. One can see a bit of Dickinson here, as well as Gwendolyn Brooks. And in the last section of Mercy, "The Message from the Ones" (a kind of angelic channeling), there is poignancy akin to Rilke's Duino Elegies. Clifton is a poet who should attract a diverse audience. In fact, her poems are so accessible, and appear so straightforward, that one could easily mistake them as simplistic; but that is something her work will never be. Janet St. John
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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 86)
  • Paperback: 79 pages
  • Publisher: BOA Editions Ltd. (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1929918550
  • ISBN-13: 978-1929918553
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,557,796 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

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mark #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
Lucille Clifton has been writing poetry since the 60s. Her poems have ranged from the monumental to the everyday, but her progression as a poet has been unfettered. She is a national treasure. There are some very interesting poems in this volume.

"September Song" is bound to draw interest, 7 poems marking the days from the September 11th terrorist attack. Clifton's treatment is unflappable. She dares us to question everything about the experience, from our fears to our subsequent reactions. She is more than unabashedly political in her views, she is also honest.

Other poems like "on dying" do recall Dickinson. The poem gives you a sense of resolution, not of loss. It's a beautiful treatment that ties in well with other poems about the mortality of being diagnosed with cancer and the surreal experience of being outside your own body.

And Clifton has never shied from treatments of race either. But she goes deeper than just race and looks at the concepts of division.

"the river between us" is used to juxtapose the confident self reliant man who fishes the river and the god-fearing man who goes to the river seeking salvation and calling for help from above. It's a powerful statement and a testament to her range and skill.

If minimalism is your benchmark for exceptional poetry, few have a better mastery than Lucille Clifton.

At times this seems like several books of poetry back to back. There are some sequences that require you to change gears very quickly.

Still this is a wonderful book of poetry, which is highly recommended.

Enjoy.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nick Ingram on October 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Mercy" is an exquisite, transcendent collection of poetry. Lucille Clifton has always written sophisticated, fearless poems that reveal the omnipresent terrors and singular triumphs of human existence. These poems are as clear, direct and beautiful as ever Clifton has written; they speak again and again to the pain that tears open our lives -- and the grace of love that can save us a little, maybe even enough.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Debra Glassco on December 24, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Once again, Lucille Cliftton testifies magnificently to the fullness of a life lived with all it's heartaches, triumphs and lasting understanding.

In plaintive and beautifully sparse and simple language she transports the reader into her world with all its soulfulness and quiet reflection. Wonderful.
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Lucille Clifton’s Mercy (2004) is a thoughtful and evocative collection that leaves the reader with more questions than answers. The four sections of poems included in the collection, while mostly cohesive in and of themselves, seem somewhat disconnected from one another upon first reading the volume. However, upon closer examination, one of the guiding threads in this collection of poetry is the notion that we are all interconnected as human beings, and, as a result, none of us (individuals, ethnic groups, countries, etc.) can claim any sort of special status. What we can do is work together, help others, and try to use whatever gifts we have for the betterment of humanity as a whole. Clifton's collection is ultimately hopeful that humanity can redeem itself. If we can learn to see beyond the obvious possibilities in ourselves and in others, if we learn to communicate creatively, and if we acknowledge that each of us is connected to everyone else in this world, we can unmake the current world and start anew
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By D. Hugueley on March 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Mercy" is a collection of poems by a poet that I discovered only last year. Lucille Clifton's "Blessing the Boats" is a fantastic collection of the most moving and lyrical poems I've read in many years. It was a great discovery and I was eager to get "Mercy" to continue reading her more recent work.

"Mercy" is more terse in tone, the tension deriving from the gravity of her subject matter. It is more weighty and erudite than the collection in "Boats," but every bit as profound and endearing.

Lucille Clifton died on Feb. 12th from a protracted battle with cancer. The world has lost a significant voice and I am glad I can honor her in my class rooms. I will make sure her poems live on in the minds and hearts of young people. She deserves a permanent home there.
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