cover image How to Carry Water: Selected Poems of Lucille Clifton

How to Carry Water: Selected Poems of Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton, edited by Aracelis Girmay. BOA, $28 (278p) ISBN 978-1-950774-14-2

The life work of Clifton (1936–2010) forms an incandescent prayer for self-determination in this vital selected volume featuring 10 previously uncollected poems. Keenly edited and with a foreword by Girmay, the collection is a love letter to Black womanhood and motherhood, a historical record of violence and injustice against Black lives, and a reckoning with illness and abuse. Additionally, Girmay acknowledges a generation raised by “Ms. Lucille” and honors what Clifton saw as “a lineage of possibility.” As always, Clifton guides the reader with her characteristic wit, repetition, and rage—“i am i am i am furious”—her unadorned lines and complex, shifting metaphors (which Girmay aptly describes as a “strange, triple-eyed imagery”). In these poems, versions of Clifton past and future, third and first-person, are on a quest toward understanding selfhood. “i am lucille,” she writes, “which stands for light.” That light refracts through the book as an insistence on survival, contemplation of the political, and delight in the ordinary. Clifton’s poems are profound and powerful to behold. (Sept.)