Cover image for Blessing the boats : new and selected poems, 1988-2000
Blessing the boats : new and selected poems, 1988-2000
Clifton, Lucille, 1936-2010.
First edition.
Publication Information:
Rochester, NY : BOA Editions, [2000]

Physical Description:
132 pages ; 23 cm.
new poems (2000) -- from next (1988) -- from quilting (1991) -- from the book of light (1993) -- from The Terrible Stories (1996)


Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3553.L45 B64 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3553.L45 B64 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



The long-awaited collection by one of the most distinguished poets working today.

Author Notes

Lucille Clifton was born in Depew, New York on June 27, 1936. She was the first person in her family to graduate from high school. She attended Howard University, where she majored in drama, for two years before deciding that she would rather write poetry. Her first poetry collection Good Times was published in 1969. During her lifetime, she wrote 11 books of poetry and 20 children's books. She won numerous awards including the Coretta Scott King Award for Everett Anderson's Good-bye in 1984, the National Book Award for Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000 in 2001, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize award in 2007. She was the Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1979 to 1985. She died after a long battle with cancer and other illnesses on February 13, 2010 at the age of 73.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Birds and foxes appear in Clifton's poems, and it's easy to see why their quicksilver energy and grace, their bright knowingness and oneness with the earth, appeal to her: when she puts pen to paper, she is their sister. Clifton's poems are lean, agile, and accurate, and there is beauty in their directness and efficiency, an element, too, of surprise. New poems set this powerful volume in motion, and just like her much-praised earlier work, they address the tragic and the inexplicable. Clifton writes about children killing children, a father abusing a daughter, white men killing black men, and other confounding forms of madness. She ponders mysteries both immediate and theological, including cancer's voraciousness, banishment from the Garden of Eden, and Lazarus' return to the land of the living, and she approaches them with pleasing matter-of-factness. Clifton is valiant and curious, saddened but seasoned. There is strength in these spare yet musical poems, and faith in the power of expression. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Clifton's poems owe a great deal to oral tradition. Her work is wonderfully musical and benefits greatly from being read aloud: "It is hard to remain human on a day/ when birds perch weeping/ in the trees and the squirrel eyes/ do not look away but the dog ones do/ in pity." Her keen sense of rhythm, of the sound, tone, and texture of words, is delightful, a rare find in this day and age. The language is crystal clear and deceptively accessible. The poems are personal, but the distant thunder of history rumbles behind every line. As she says on seeing a photograph: "is it the cut glass/ of their eyes/ looking up toward/ the new gnarled branch/ of the black man/ hanging from a tree?" Clifton's work hearkens back to the days of the Black Arts Movement and sheds light on the new black aesthetic. These are economical slices of ordinary life, celebrations, if you will, of African American existence. With simple language and common sense, she writes of grace, character, and race by way of the personal and familiar. Clifton's voice, her unique vision and wisdom, make this book essential for any serious poetry collection.--Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.