cover image The Book of Light

The Book of Light

Lucille Clifton. Copper Canyon Press, $21 (80pp) ISBN 978-1-55659-051-1

Clifton's ( Quilting ) latest collection clearly demonstrates why she was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. These poems contain all the simplicity and grace readers have come to expect from her work. The first few pages set the title in a larger perspective at the same time that they announce the book's premise: ``woman, i am / lucille, which stands for light.'' This is a feminist version of Roots , charged with outrage at the sins done to women of previous generations. There are the typical heroes and anti-heroes: Atlas, Sisyphus, Leda, biblical women--but even these tired figures are given a new, often comic, twist: Naomi, for example, doesn't want Ruth's devotion, just to be left alone to ``grieve in peace''; several poems are addressed to Clark Kent as the speaker comes to terms with the realization that he doesn't have the power to save her after all. And what do today's women have instead of superheroes? Jesse Helms; fathers who ``burned us all.'' Though it is based more or less in traditional Christianity, the poetry also is concerned with how spirituality can be personal. Low key and poignant, poem after poem takes the form of a conversation, whether woman to her dead parents, Lucifer to God, or poet to reader. (Mar.)