cover image The Book of Light

The Book of Light

Lucille Clifton. Copper Canyon, $22 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-55659-678-0

Thoughtfully introduced by Ross Gay and with an afterword by Sidney Clifton, this 30th anniversary edition highlights the timeless power and relevance of Clifton’s writing. One of the most celebrated and beloved voices in poetry, Clifton brings to vivid life the intersections of the sacred and the secular (“between starshine and clay”) and the everyday and the extraordinary with her trademark simplicity and precision. She finds shining language for personal reckoning and pain: “see in the path of his going/ the banners of regret,” she writes in “my lost father.” “who is that running away/ with my life?” she asks in “c.c. rider.” The personae and figures she conjures (Lucifer, God, Atlas, Leda, the yeti poet, Clark Kent) display her wide imaginative range. The collection includes her much anthologized masterpiece that opens, “won’t you celebrate with me/ what i have shaped into/ a kind of life? i had no model...” and unforgettably concludes, “come celebrate/ with me that everyday/ something has tried to kill me/ and has failed.” What Gay calls “a kind of sturdy, unwavering witness to that fundamental connection” between people is everywhere apparent in Clifton’s work. This essential edition is an excellent reminder of the poet’s inimitable gifts. (Aug.)