Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mercy” as Want to Read:
Mercy
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Mercy

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  130 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Lucille Clifton’s poetry carries her deep concerns for the world’s children, the stratification of American society, those people lost or forgotten amid the crushing race of Western materialism and technology. In turns sad, troubled and angry, her voice has always been one of great empathy, knowing, as she says, “the only mercy is memory.” In this, her 12th book of poetry, ...more
Paperback, 79 pages
Published September 1st 2004 by BOA Editions Ltd.
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mercy, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mercy

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 211)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
K. Euler
This is a collection about pain, about fragmentation. It starts with an almost epitaph: “the only mercy is memory.” Mercy is about the re-memory we are all capable of. Clifton, in her arch of poems in the wake of 9/11, claims that we all share the same (fear, death, life) and asks if it is “treason to remember”. Memory becomes an act of defiance and survival. It is often as painful as it is necessary.

The memories she writes in her “useful”—“not unique”—tongue are of fear, death, life: she writes
...more
Rachel
"you have placed yourselves
in peril
not by your superior sword
but by your insignificant
quarrels with life"

—from "the message from The Ones"

A really lovely collection—these are hard-hitting and strange in places, not terribly similar to other Clifton I've read. I liked this an awful lot.
Destiny
I don't remember exactly which poem I read by Mrs. Clifton first but I remember liking it. When it came time for me to buy books I thought of her and I ordered this collection.

It is marvelous. The poetry flows well and I particularly like the 9/11 sequence. I feel like that section in particular is still relevant to America post 9/11

The last section with the poems from the Other World where really great as other well. I feel like they were trying to impart some wisdom and I feel like I need to
...more
Sarah
This one is what this book is about:

surely i am able to write poems
celebrating grass and how the blue
in the sky can flow green or red
and the waters lean against the
chesapeake shore like a familiar,
poems about nature and landscape
surely but whenever i begin
"the trees wave their knotted branches
and..." why
is there under that poem always
an other poem?


For Lucille Clifton, everything is about something else, and everything's something else is personal. Her poems are strong, vulnerable, brave, tender
...more
Alexandria Michelle
Aug 11, 2008 Alexandria Michelle rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Poets and fans of great poetry
Recommended to Alexandria Michelle by: Seattle Arts & Lectures
I loved this collection of poems. Clifton does a masterful job of sharing her thoughts and images on loving mama,beating cancer three times, losing children to death, haunted memories of an abusive father and Spirit. She includes a fantastic series of poems based around 9/11 titled, September Song: a poem in 7 days. She completes the collection with a second series, titled Message from the Ones (received in the late 70s.) This series of poems was extraordinary because she delves into life beyond ...more
Ruth
I would give this book 4 stars if it consisted only of the first two-thirds. I would give it 1 or 2 if it were shortened to the last third.

The last third, "the message from the Ones (received in the late 70s)," is tiresomely oracular. There's little imagery, just pronouncements (e.g., "the air / you have polluted / you will breathe // the waters / you have poisoned / you will drink // when you come again / and you will come again").

Much more beautiful is "wind on the st. marys river," which pict
...more
Jimmie
Clifton tackles quite a few things with this collection, including the deaths of her mother and sister and 9/11. It seems at first to be incoherent, but after some consideration I realized the whole book is about honoring what you once had, appreciating what you still have, and sharing it with the world. I particularly like the poems about ecology (both in the environmental and holistic senses).

Here's one of my favorite poems from this collection (untitled):

in the saying of
you
we will sometime
be
...more
Kirsten
Excellent. Love her voice. Looking forward to the next collection.
Dliu
Sep 28, 2007 Dliu added it
Recommends it for: poetry lovers
Shelves: complete
very interesting book of poems, mostly in the same style, of a blurry almost dreamlike trance-mission. Made me feel uneasy at first, but I've come to love this book as a whole, now that i've picked thru it several times, and read everything in it at least once. this is definitely poetry with a message

thanks to lala for the recommendation!

Madeline
Although it's obvious Lucille Clifton takes her "craft" (ugh, and sorry, but ...) very seriously, and hasn't compromised it for readability, the poems are nevertheless extremely readable. And also very relatable: even the kind of gnomic poems at the end have ... let's say applications. This is intimate poetry.
Miranda
This is one of the most stirring and striking books of poetry that I have ever read! If you haven't checked out this poet's work, do it!
Jean
Aug 01, 2010 Jean rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
I did not enjoy these as much as I did a couple other of her books of poetry. They were still worth the read.
Joshua Heckathorn
Sep 07, 2009 Joshua Heckathorn rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Joshua by: A Muse Among Me
I find her poetry to be slightly disconnected and somewhat hard to read. But I'm still reading and re-reading the book.
Amanda
I want to keep these poems nearby. They are very special to my point of view right now. Any stone can sing.
Cami
Mar 15, 2011 Cami rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Such an excellent collection.
This includes a series of poems written the week of September 11, 2001.
Kayla
Again I love her as a writer and she's very encouraging as a female African American writer.
Virginia Albanese
Really liked most of the poems about some serious aspects of life. First time I have read her.
Sherry Quan
I love this book, but can anyone explain "the message from The Ones"?
Kristin
I was absolutely stunned by "Message from the Ones."
Kara
Jan 12, 2008 Kara rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Poems.
Steven Chang
Steven Chang marked it as to-read
Jan 19, 2015
Justin Grimbol
Justin Grimbol marked it as to-read
Jan 11, 2015
Megan
Megan marked it as to-read
Jan 09, 2015
Didi
Didi marked it as to-read
Jan 07, 2015
Ellen Doyle
Ellen Doyle marked it as to-read
Dec 29, 2014
Cláudia Costa
Cláudia Costa marked it as to-read
Dec 28, 2014
Ginnie Grant
Ginnie Grant marked it as to-read
Dec 23, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Human Line
  • American Smooth
  • A New Path to the Waterfall
  • News of the World
  • Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape
  • Alive Together
  • Odes to Opposites
  • The Collected Poems, 1957-1982
  • Let the Dead Bury Their Dead
  • Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day
  • Almost Invisible: Poems
  • Duende
  • House of Light
  • Poems New and Collected
  • The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry
  • What Have You Lost?
  • The Devil's Tour
  • Love Poems
183177
Lucille Clifton was an American poet, writer, and educator from New York. Common topics in her poetry include the celebration of her African American heritage, and feminist themes, with particular emphasis on the female body.

She was the first person in her family to finish high school and attend college. She started Howard University on scholarship as a drama major but lost the scholarship two yea
...more
More about Lucille Clifton...
Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000 Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980 The Book of Light Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 the terrible stories

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“oh antic God
return to me
my mother in her thirties
leaned across the front porch
the huge pillow of her breasts
pressing against the rail
summoning me in for bed.

I am almost the dead woman’s age times two.

I can barely recall her song
the scent of her hands
though her wild hair scratches my dreams
at night. return to me, oh Lord of then
and now, my mother’s calling,
her young voice humming my name.”
6 likes
More quotes…