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Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 (American Poets Continuum) Paperback – April 1, 2000
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-Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
"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.
She writes with the economy of words I most admire in poetry. Even with musical repetition in just the right spots, her poems rarely go beyond 20 lines. Her poems even look simple: short lines, often in lower case with no punctuation. That’s where simplicity stops. By the end of a poem, she’s either waved a magic wand over you or struck you with a sledge hammer. I am in awe.
Her genius often comes down to one word, the right word, the one you likely would not have chosen. Often those single perfect words were the ones that stopped me, made me read the line again, and mark it in pencil. Here are a couple that had that effect:
In “what i think when i ride the train” (about her father who worked for the railroad):
“he made the best damn couplers
in the whole white world.”
“White” is the perfect near-rhyme to replace the expected “wide.” It lets us read between the lines (without having to rant) that her daddy worked hard, saved lives, and didn’t get the recognition and pay he deserved.
In “Lazarus (second day),”
“i am not the same man
borne into the crypt.”
“Borne” reminds us that death and birth are opposites and also hints at what we know is coming: Lazarus will be born again.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Lucille Clifton's Blessing the Boats is a collection of new poems with selected poems previously published in Quilting, The Book of Light, and The Terrible Stories. Read morePublished on April 9, 2010 by leolori0819
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... Read morePublished on February 21, 2010 by Grady Harp
What a breathtaking poet. This has quickly become one of my fave collections. Clifton is amazingly succinct and deftly descriptive. A beautiful woman, beautiful poems.Published on September 7, 2009 by D. Hugueley
Paul L. McGehee
Clichés are literary sins, so Lord forgive me when I say Lucile Clifton's Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000, is a... Read more
Lucille Clifton, Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 (BOA Editions, 2000)
There's a lot of good stuff in this volume. Read more
Clifton exemplifies all that is wrong with modern poetry. This is preachy, PC prose, with some odd linefeeds thrown in, written in the currently popular style, addressing the... Read morePublished on December 18, 2005 by Nadia van Cloce
Let me start by saying that I have loved Lucille Clifton's poetry for years, since I was first introduced to her work in an anthology. Read morePublished on July 2, 2001