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Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,749 ratings  ·  99 reviews
The long-awaited collection by one of the most distinguished poets working today.
Paperback, 145 pages
Published April 1st 2000 by BOA Editions Ltd.
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  1,749 ratings  ·  99 reviews

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Raul Bimenyimana
It's over a year since I discovered Lucille Clifton's work through The Book of Light which was a marvelous book of poetry, some of the poems from that book collected in this one, and continuing to read her words feels like salving. This collection spanning three decades is brilliant. A lot of the poems here deal with illness, loss and grief, others in celebration of life and its mysteries, a good collection of poems from a poet that's become a favourite. ...more
Jul 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: af-am, 5-star, poetry
I'm sorry to say that I was not familiar with Lucille Clifton's work. Her poetry really blew my mind. Such depth of consciousness concerning common details of life. Although we hate to admit how often many of these events occur. Clifton's poetry makes one think deeply about life events that have not sunk into our minds thoroughly. ...more
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
As the 2004 inscription reminds me, I have owned this collection for quite some time. Other than the periodical flip-through, however, I'd never read through much of it until now. I'm so glad it finally made its way off of my shelves and into my hands. Clifton's poems are economic, but not without power. This collection contains selected poems from prior collections next, quilting, the book of light, and The Terrible Stories, as well as several new poems. She engages themes like pain, race, the ...more
Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Lucille Clifton: Ave Atque Vale

Lucille Clifton is gone but her legacy of simple, honestly felt, seemingly spontaneously written poems about the live of ordinary people who become icons almost by accident will live on, especially through the collection of her works in this award winning volume BLESSING THE BOATS: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS 1988-2000. Her powers of observation of those aspects of our society that are usually shuttered by embarrassment are here made crystalline. She dares to share her
Christina Olivares
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
poet saint.

blessing the boats

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“in my dream
a house is burning.

something crawls out of the fire
cleansed and purified.
in my dream i call it light.”
May 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
These are not the poems of a benevolent universe; they are full of the sharp edges of real, hard lives.

Clifton sees the dark side of Biblical and mythological narratives reflected in her experience and that of those she cares about. She takes stories, true and symbolic, and with clear and incisive observations also honors, celebrates, blesses, laughs, and supports.

And dreams. The dream poems were among my favorites, and even those not directly tied to dreams often have a dream-like quality.

Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautiful, harrowing, bitter poetry that represents both hope and hopelessness for humanity. Some of these poems will burn into my memory, especially "jasper texas 1998" and "alabama 9/15/63", two poems that are about the murders of innocent African Americans. Some poems deal with love, feminism, and pessimism; but they will all linger and await to be re-read. ...more
Dec 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I love Lucille Clifton. I had the great honor of working with Lucille at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She is truly the "poem doctor" and a wonderful poet herself. ...more
M. Ainomugisha
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There are several delighting parts of this collection but I’m especially amazed by the ability of Lucille Clifton to write about the divine, the dream and the metaphysical in the manner that she does here.
At the end of the series she talks about being mocked by family for her abilities to draw poetry from/about the afterlife and convert it into the present.
Read it out loud. Read all of it out loud.
Anatoly Molotkov
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"who/ among us can imagine ourselves/ unimagined? who// among us can speak with so fragile/ tongue and remain proud?" A stunning, utterly moving investigation of the body and the (racist) society with its many stories and mythologies, rendered in a spare, supremely effective style that is Lucille Clifton's alone. ...more
Greg Bem
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I truly have no idea how it took me this long to discover Clifton. Her works rival her contemporaries in a way that is both universal and unique. This collection touches on a lot of her work, though the entire time I wish I had each and every book featured here in my hands, in full. What a powerful introduction--I look forward to the next and the next and the next.
Anthony Chan
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
staggeringly powerful, this collection of poems rocked my world for an entire year. it is a gift and a blessing to encounter such a raw and ancient power.
Krissy Ronan
Oct 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
These poems left an impression on my heart.
Sarah Cypher
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Gorgeous, cerebral, afire on all levels from the shape of words to the shape of ideas. I am new to poetry, and come to it as a long-time fiction writer. I found much to learn and love in Lucille Clifton's rendering of childhood abuse, aging, racism, and poor health. Her writing redeems pain as a window into the awed, inner child. ...more
Sep 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Clifton's reflections on the beauty and ugliness that are wrapped up in being a daughter, a sister, a friend, a mother, a wife, and a woman tear at the soul and remind us that we are all made up of poems. We can either give them life through words or allow them to die in silence, fear, and shame. ...more
Jonathan Tennis
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Enjoyable collection. Read it in the order of the books in which the poems appeared reading the most current ones last. Really liked the following: alabama 9/15/63; why some people be mad at me sometimes; sorrow song; shapeshifter poems; white lady; telling our stories.
Dec 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I had never read any Clifton poetry prior to this, but I am a huge fan now. I'm definitely going to go pick up some more of her stuff. I especially love her poems about womanhood and superman. ...more
Emma Sea
Nov 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Surprisingly I liked her earlier work more than her 1993+ work.
Nadine Jones
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thought it was kind of interesting that the poem chosen for the title isn't really representative of her work in general. Her poems tend to be very personal, often tinged with an edge of loss or grief, and overall shaped by her toughness. Life had been hard, but she kept living it. But "Blessing the Boats" is a more generic poem, the kind that would not be out of place in a valedictorian speech or on a plaque pretty much anywhere:

blessing the boats
(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering e
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
It’s nothing short of incredible how much meaning Lucille Clifton packs into these short-lined, simply-written, brief poems. They run the emotional gamut, from the wedding blessing of the titular poem to many (brief) meditations on cancer (and its aftereffects), drugs, and (sexual/racial) violence. Sometimes the title forms the first line, sometimes not. There are almost no capital letters. The epigraphs or dedications, while all very brief, fill out the poems to which they pertain. I opened thi ...more
Jean Carlton
Nov 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, award-winning
I wanted to know more about Clifton after seeing (or hearing? ) the title poem somewhere. It felt like a prayer for today in our Covid world and it touched me. Look it up. The ending "may you in your innocence sail through this to that" said to me, in the current stress and uncertainty of the future, hang in there....we'll "sail through this to that" what we remember as normal.
The title says "new and selected" --most are from previous books. I read each poem a couple of times, aloud. I can't say
Mar 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
One of my reading goals this year was to give poetry a try and this collection was my starting place. I think it was a perfect entrance point for reading poetry.

The themes were really resonant: womanhood, the body, sexuality, race, grief, religion, nature. I really *felt* these poems and was surprised by how many of them emotionally affected or resonated with me.

The series of poems about Eden I particularly loved. I have never read anything before that so accurately captured my experience arou
André Habet
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Had never read any of Clifton's work before this, and damn. She floored me, especially with her Lucifer and fox sequence poems along with several poems chronicling her time with breast cancer. She gives Milton a run for his money in terms of nuanced portrayals of the light bringer and Adam and Eve. Didn't expect that going in. Looking forward to reading the collections in their entirety once I track them down. ...more
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Having never heard of Lucille Clifton before, I wasn't sure what to expect but I thoroughly enjoyed reading a collection of her works. The anthologies that stood out for me were New Poems (2000) and Quilting (1991) for the handling of personal tragedy and typically taboo topics like menstruation. Having also just read Paradise Lost, the poems with references to the Fall were a personal favourite too. ...more
Ms E Lacey
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Lucille Clifton's poetry has evaded me until now but I'm glad I discovered it finally as I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection of her works. The anthologies that stood out for me especially were New Poems (2000) and Quilting (1991) for Clifton's handling of personal tragedies such as child abuse and typically taboo topics like abortion and menstruation. Having also just read John Milton's Paradise Lost, the poems with references to the Fall of Adam and Eve also struck a chord with me. ...more
Jan 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Phew. This was my first time reading Lucille Clifton, I had never studied her in school so I feel really lucky to have gotten a copy from the library. The amount of emotion in such brief, concise words and poetic patterns (note, I'm not a poet) just really hits you hard. Highly recommend.

I especially loved "poem in praise of menstruation" -- I think it's rare to find something so beautiful and short about menstruating.
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lucille Clifton was a master. I’ve never consumed a collection as quickly, as fully. There was something so intimate about reading this, as if the poet were speaking directly to me. Every poem was a gift.
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Lucille Clifton is a gifted poet, but it is hard to read her poetry without some context. At points her poems seem to use metaphors that are not clear to me, so it was hard to appreciate what she was trying to say
Matt Miles
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Lucille Clifton concisely and precisely captures all of life’s beauty and pain in personal and collective experiences. No observation, lyric, or metaphor feels false or forced. There’s truth and beauty in every line, no matter how surprising or unpleasant. For that, this is a beautiful book.
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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

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