The late poet Lucille Clifton (1936-2010) was a powerhouse from the start. She was also whip-smart and bighearted, angry and generous. Her lyrics resonate with the cadences of hymns and the blues, and contain the voices of young and old, men and women—she sang the whole choir. Her extraordinarily diverse work is showcased in The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton, 1965-2010 (BOA Editions, $35), expertly edited by poets Kevin Young and Michael S. Glaser. It begins with early uncollected pieces and concludes with a gathering of late poems that features a sequence on physical illness and a series of spiritual communications from The Ones. In between, this handsome volume includes all eleven of Clifton’s poetry books; collectively, this oeuvre charts the courageous and unstinting efforts of a woman “standing between / …what I’ve been told / … and the trouble I’ve seen” to upset the givens of racial, economic, and gender inequities by reporting the experiences of the disenfranchised.
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