Among this country's oldest and most prestigious magazines is The Nation, which recently reviewed The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010. Paired down, the review by Jordan Davis is a perfect guide to Clifton as an "exceptional poet." "What’s essential to know about the poetry of Lucille Clifton—what likely scared her about her writing, and what I don’t think anyone says about it—is that when she is good, she kills," says Davis while quoting her poem "at least we killed the roaches." The review moves steadily through the 770+ page collection, from book to book and poem to poem throughout Clifton's life. "To steadily escalate a poem’s intensity when each stanza seems to have hit the heights is difficult. Clifton does so by raising the stakes. She is clear about the psychic cost of what needs to be done to live better, or to live well at all, such as clearing out of the way unwanted living things. She herself had seen the matter from both sides ... This is what Clifton does best ... every poem gives a complete and recognizable feeling, a physical one, and does so by including exactly as much narrative as necessary." Regarding the tensions living in her work, "Clifton draws on this material without twisting drama out of it--she returns to the scenes of the trauma to grieve and make peace with her losses...what is so valuable is that she goes directly and not without anger and confusion into these life-and-death matters, allowing the reader to empathize, and share, in her recognition that survival is a triumph. What is even more valuable is that she recognizes that the reader too survives... When Clifton writes such poems, she is among the very few true poets of our times." Click here to read the entire The Nation review, "Unsparing Truths: On Lucille Clifton." Lucille Clifton's work can be purchased from the BOA Bookstore, including the newly released The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010.
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