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Celebrating Black History Month 2018

Greetings, dear readers! BOA Editions is proud to celebrate the vibrant and vital works of America's black poets. From W. E. B. Du Bois to Langston Hughes to our own beloved Lucille Clifton, America's black poets have enriched the American literary community with their words and voices for generations.

Last week, the Academy of American Poets published a list of 12 poems to read for black history month selected by twelve contemporary black poets, including Safiya Sinclair's recommendation to read " “won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton—one of our favorite poems from The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010

won't you celebrate with me
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Sinclair writes of her selection:

Here is Clifton stepping inside the American poetic tradition—a tradition that never considered her, however multitudinously it declared itself—and fashioning a new mold for her life, for black womanhood in all its broad fields and rivers of wonder. Here, “on this bridge between / starshine and clay,” she not only beams out a nation that has tried to snuff her out, but knowing that the black woman must nurture and cherish her own self in the world, she divines this life as a rebellious necessity. To be black in America is to be endangered. To be a black woman in America is to be the unsung casualty. To be a black woman alive in America and writing poetry is miraculous. Here I am, she says—despite a fight against my selfhood and survival at every turn, here I am—in radiant joy, in full bloom, in celebration of myself, and despite you, I’m still alive and alive and alive.

Lucille Clifton, 2009. Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Join our celebration of Black History Month with poems from some of our favorite black poets. Check out BOA's social media feeds every Monday and Friday in February for special Poem-of-the-Week selections featuring works by Lucille CliftonAracelis Girmay, and more!

Share the love with BOA's Valentine Sale—going on now! Get 25% off all BOA Bookstore orders and pre-orders now through February 28th by entering promo code BOALOVE at checkout.

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