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American Poets Continuum #112: Voicesby Lucille Clifton
Synopses & Reviews
In 2007, Lucille Clifton became the first African American woman to win the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, one of the most prestigious American poetry awards and one of the largest literary honors for work in the English language. Clifton has also won the National Book Award in poetry for Blessing the Boats (BOA Editions, 2000), and is the only author ever to have two collections, Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir (BOA Editions, 1987) and Next: New Poems (BOA Editions, 1987), named finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in one year.
In Voices, Clifton continues her celebrated aesthetic of writing poems for the disempowered and the underprivileged while finding humor and redemption among life’s many hardships. This book also highlights Clifton’s ability to write inventive dramatic monologues. Voices includes monologues spoken by animals, as well as by the food product spokespeople Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and the apparently nameless guy on the Cream of Wheat box.
“cream of wheat”
sometimes at night
we stroll the market aisles
ben and jemima and me they
walk in front humming this and that
i lag behind
trying to remove my chef’s cap
wondering what ever pictured me
then left me personless
i read in an old paper that i was called rastus
but no mother ever
gave that to her son
toward dawn we head back
to our shelves
our boxes ben and jemima and me
we pose and smile i simmer
to myself what is my name
BOA Editions is thrilled to present the newest poetry collection by the one and only Lucille Clifton.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A new collection of empathetic and illuminating poems by one of America's most-beloved poets.
About the Author
Lucille Clifton won the 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Award. Her book, Blessing the Boats (BOA Editions), won the 2000 National Book Award for Poetry. Two of Clifton's BOA poetry collections were chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Clifton's awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and an Emmy Award.
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