cover image Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-20

Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-20

Lucille Clifton. BOA Editions, $17 (145pp) ISBN 978-1-880238-88-2

Culling from her last four books and including 19 new poems, Clifton's latest offers few surprises, but all of the joys and straight-talk readers have come to expect over 40 or so years of work. Proceeding chronologically, poems from next retell ""my dream about the cows,"" ""my dream about being white"" and ""the message of thelma sayles,"" among other poems and modes. Quilting juxtaposes updatings of Eden with poems on menstruation, and with, among others, the title poem: ""may the tide/ that is entering even now/ the lip of our understanding/ carry you out."" the book of light features three Leda poems (""sometimes another star chooses./ the ones coming in from the east/ are dagger-fingered men"") and the seven-part serial stock-taking ""far memory,"" while The Terrible Stories tell of ""the coming of the fox"" (in several poems) and wait for ""something human."" New poems chart the aftermath of cancer and kidney failure, speak in the voice of the murdered James Byrd Jr. and ""study the masters"" (""like my aunt timmie""). While the use of lowercase throughout seems less-than-always apt, Clifton's idiom is unmistakable, well beyond her quip some years ago--""I am a Black woman poet, and I sound like one."" A companion to Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980, this collection distills a distinctive American voice, one that pulls no punches in taking on the best and worst of life. (Apr.)