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Black History Month Feature: Lucille Clifton and Geffrey Davis!

As Black History Month comes to a close, this is your friendly reminder to read the work of Black authors year-round! Finish February or start March by stocking up on your Lucille Clifton and snagging Geffrey Davis' forthcoming collection, One Wild Word Away, recommended by BOA's phenomenal spring 2024 intern, Sophia Ross! 



There is much to be said about the voice that is Lucille Clifton and the legacy that her work holds. However, I find myself immeasurably lucky to be able to experience such an influence’s work in a smaller, more individualistic way. Lucille Clifton’s Voices is a reflection on family, faith, and the universal practice of hearing and being heard. The poems in Clifton’s collection are short and witty, yet do not shy away from utilizing an inherently non-complex form from discussing grief– and even more commonly, multi-generational grief– in a way that is both linguistically concise and heart-wrenchingly transparent.

The lack of capitalization and punctuation in Clifton’s work reads as anything but simple, and instead provides the reader a space to experience Clifton’s writing in arguably, its most natural, candid, and raw state. While reading her work, I often found myself in somewhat of an emotional whirlwind– repeatedly laughing in moments of joy and grieving alongside the speaker in moments of loss. To me, Lucille Clifton’s work fills a gap in poetic narrative that has remained hollow for decades, and I am most certain that that space will forever be occupied by her poetry.



            “i hate to see the evening sun go down”

my mothers son

died in his sleep


and so did mine

both of them found


through years apart

hands folded in


unexpected prayer

cold on a bed


of trouble     my brother

my son


my mama was right

theys blues

in the night



Never before have I experienced such a potent concoction of linguistic precision, experimental form, and lyrical expertise in a collection of poetry. Geffrey Davis’s third book of poems, One Wild Word Away, is a haunting chorus of family, loss, and the undeniable longevity of trauma. This collection confronts many ghosts of the past, as the speaker grapples with the “home-shaped questions” that are left unanswered by a childhood filled with “fallow breath”. This book held up a mirror and forced me to grapple with the long-fettered shackles of my own past I often try to forget.

Davis’s exploration of trauma feels communal– each step towards his healing echoing with that of my own. Davis’s poetry painfully traces the rough edges of “father” that often appear cut out from our childhoods, and through an exploration of unfiltered truth, he carefully fills each wound with a tenderness and desire for a more loving future. This book seamlessly passes between cracked panes of past and present, and left me reeling with the discovery that even though the window to one’s snow-clad childhood may be closed, the illusory warmth of our adult homes is not fully sheltered from its cold.


Mercy from the Orchard


                        –for my brothers


To know a sweetness beyond reason,

before banishment, I scythed at the memories:

our father’s clouded mind, his tendency

for tearing holes through home once the cravings

had turned his loveliness to smoke. But pity

can compromise a hard pruning. And hope

will leave its own hollow. The moment

I had nothing but violence for that man,

I dreamt an unbroken season of warmth

to cull each cold sorriness he had buried

inside our family’s plot. And so, for years,

I remained guilty of denying winter’s

proper rest. Then another field of grief


swept our mother’s face–more children seeing

the hands of parents folded into fist-shaped

fruit; more hope knocked from the trees

of our tomorrow. Therefore, when surrounded

by the soft clarity of light, despite

steadying wonder’s blade on my tongue

to pollard the heart, I still shiver at

the vastness of doubts blooming in my mouth.

We never set out to reseed our shame.

We failed to imagine this bounty

of home-shaped questions with no relief.

We kept wanting forgiveness to yield

the next belonging from our fallow breath.

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