cover image Voices


Lucille Clifton, . . Boa, $22.95 (63pp) ISBN 978-1-934414-12-5

National Book Award–winner Clifton has long enjoyed national acclaim for her careful, colloquial, compact renditions of African-American voices, in memoirs, books for children and more than a dozen books of poems. This relatively short new collection excels in its opening pages, with wry comic verse in the voices of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and a devout raccoon: “oh Master Of All Who Take and Wash/ And Eat lift me away.” Clifton’s more serious poems, where she speaks as herself, address her late parents, her delights as a grandmother and her mixed feelings about memory and her own body as she begins her eighth decade. A visionary sequence of very brief lyric works, “A Meditation on Ten Oxherding Pictures,” winds the volume up: “i am lucille who masters ox/ ox is the one lucille masters/ hands caution me again/ what can be herded/ is not ox.” Where Clifton’s earlier poetry sought strength in African-American oral traditions, these poems look even further back, to the origin of writing (where a sketch of an ox became an aleph, then an “A”). Clifton (Mercy ) retains an undeniable sincerity, an openness to her own emotions, and a rare warmth. (Nov.)