How to Carry Water: Selected Poems of Lucille Clifton

How to Carry Water: Selected Poems of Lucille Clifton


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How to Carry Water: Selected Poems of Lucille Clifton celebrates both familiar and lesser-known works by one of America’s most beloved poets, including 10 newly discovered poems that have never been collected.

These poems celebrating black womanhood and resilience shimmer with intellect, insight, humor, and joy, all in Clifton’s characteristic style—a voice that the late Toni Morrison described as “seductive with the simplicity of an atom, which is to say highly complex, explosive underneath an apparent quietude.” Selected and introduced by award-winning poet Aracelis Girmay, this volume of Clifton’s poetry is simultaneously timeless and fitting for today’s tumultuous moment.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781950774142
Publisher: BOA Editions, Ltd.
Publication date: 09/08/2020
Series: American Poets Continuum Series , #180
Edition description: 1st
Pages: 278
Sales rank: 164,376
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Lucille Clifton (1936–2010) was an award winning poet, fiction writer, and author of children’s books. Her poetry collection, Blessing the Boats: New & Selected Poems 1988-2000 (BOA, 2000), won the National Book Award for Poetry. In 1988 she became the only author to have two collections selected in the same year as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir (BOA, 1987), and Next: New Poems (BOA, 1987). In 1996, her collection The Terrible Stories (BOA, 1996), was a finalist for the National Book Award. Among her many other awards and accolades are the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Frost Medal, and an Emmy Award. In 2013, her posthumously published collection The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 (BOA, 2012), was awarded the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry.

Read an Excerpt

water sign woman

the woman who feels everything

sits in her new house

waiting for someone to come

who knows how to carry water

without spilling, who knows

why the desert is sprinkled

with salt, why tomorrow

is such a long and ominous word.

they say to the feel things woman

that little she dreams is possible,

that there is only so much

joy to go around, only so much

water. there are no questions

for this, no arguments. she has

to forget to remember the edge

of the sea, they say, to forget

how to swim to the edge, she has

to forget how to feel. the woman

who feels everything sits in her

new house retaining the secret

the desert knew when it walked

up from the ocean, the desert,

so beautiful in her eyes;

water will come again

if you can wait for it.

she feels what the desert feels.

she waits.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Clifton was one of America’s great poets, whose work throughout her lifetime was committed to chronicling and celebrating black lives. The honesty, joy, wisdom, and hope she brought to this task is regenerative.”

—Tracy K. Smith, former U.S. Poet Laureate

“Clifton’s earliest poems could have been written yesterday, and her later works could have been written decades ago. Each poem is always its own world. Her poems touch on the political, the personal, the spiritual.”

—Reginald Dwayne Betts, The New York Times

“Open up to any page and Clifton delivers a word. Whether the subject is roaches, family, death, or surviving, she has a psalm for all occasions. She can create the most complicated magic out of the simplest words.”

—Danez Smith, The Week

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