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Finalist, 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. "Lucille Clifton is one of the four or five most authentic and profound living American poets."--Denise Levertov


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Finalist, 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. "Lucille Clifton is one of the four or five most authentic and profound living American poets."--Denise Levertov

30 review for Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rosa Cabrera

    Unbelievable. Clifton had just laid out the guide to being alive, female, and Black in the US through her poetry and memoir. Poetry has never moved me as much as this, and I've never read so much from and about a person in such a short amount of time. All the work of navigating the world, ourselves, our families, and loved ones is right there, delivered in easily digestible but sad, celebratory, and unashamed images, moments, observations. Much more I can say but this is clearly more of a respon Unbelievable. Clifton had just laid out the guide to being alive, female, and Black in the US through her poetry and memoir. Poetry has never moved me as much as this, and I've never read so much from and about a person in such a short amount of time. All the work of navigating the world, ourselves, our families, and loved ones is right there, delivered in easily digestible but sad, celebratory, and unashamed images, moments, observations. Much more I can say but this is clearly more of a response than a review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Drabekate

    I love this book. I return to it again and again, reread parts of it. Clifton was in Portland recently, and I was able to hear her read, and she did so with great charm and humanness. Her language is so simple, and yet through repetition and arrangement on the page he work is so beautiful, pulling me in again and again. I like the simplicity, the way she captures a feeling in just a word or two.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Glenda Bailey-Mershon

    There is no finer sensibility in American poetry than this rich, illuminating, caring poet's work.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    the light that came to lucille clifton came in a shift of knowing when even her fondest sureties faded away. it was the summer she understood that she had not understood and was not mistress even of her own off eye. then the man escaped throwing away his tie and the children grew legs and started walking and she could see the peril of an unexamined life. she closed her eyes, afraid to look for her authenticity but the light insists on itself in the world; a voice from the nondead past started talking, she clos the light that came to lucille clifton came in a shift of knowing when even her fondest sureties faded away. it was the summer she understood that she had not understood and was not mistress even of her own off eye. then the man escaped throwing away his tie and the children grew legs and started walking and she could see the peril of an unexamined life. she closed her eyes, afraid to look for her authenticity but the light insists on itself in the world; a voice from the nondead past started talking, she closed her ears and it spelled out in her hand "you might as well answer the door, my child, the truth is furiously knocking." --Lucille Clifton I really lucked out when I found this book in the little free library that stands on a street corner in my neighborhood. I love when happy accidents shape my life--in this case, my self-led poetry education. Better late than never.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marci McPhee

    Powerful poetry and memoir by contemporary black poet, with gems like these: "Oh, slavery, slavery," my Daddy would say. "It ain't something in a book, Lue. Even the good parts was awful." (page 237), and this poem I can't get out of my head about Mary's mother: anna speaks of the childhood of mary her daughter we rise up early and we work. work is the medicine for dreams. that dream i am having again; she washed in light, whole world bowed to its knees, she on a hill looking up, face all long tears. and Powerful poetry and memoir by contemporary black poet, with gems like these: "Oh, slavery, slavery," my Daddy would say. "It ain't something in a book, Lue. Even the good parts was awful." (page 237), and this poem I can't get out of my head about Mary's mother: anna speaks of the childhood of mary her daughter we rise up early and we work. work is the medicine for dreams. that dream i am having again; she washed in light, whole world bowed to its knees, she on a hill looking up, face all long tears. and shall i give her up to dreaming them? i fight this thing. all day we scrubbing scrubbing. Thank you, Lucille, for inspiring me today.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I fell in love with Clifton through this book. This book made me stumble all over my words when I met her. So succinct, so powerful, so honest- both her words and the woman herself.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tanya Hallam

    I love everything about Lucille Clifton and her style of writing. If you've never read her works before this is the best place to start.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shelby Lynne

    Lucille Clifton makes my soul sing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Had so may reasons to think of Lucille Clifton and her early work lately. I've been in Buffalo, where she grew up (well, Depew), worked at SUNY Fredonia where she finished college. There one of the faculty had "homage to my hips" tacked onto a bulletin board. Drive past the empty steel mill where her father worked and which populates her marvelously compact memoir. & I've been trying to figure out what poetry is and should do--and she (w/Jeff Coleman) was an early inspiration at St. Mary's. So I Had so may reasons to think of Lucille Clifton and her early work lately. I've been in Buffalo, where she grew up (well, Depew), worked at SUNY Fredonia where she finished college. There one of the faculty had "homage to my hips" tacked onto a bulletin board. Drive past the empty steel mill where her father worked and which populates her marvelously compact memoir. & I've been trying to figure out what poetry is and should do--and she (w/Jeff Coleman) was an early inspiration at St. Mary's. So I picked up Cheryl's copy of Good Woman. This was overdue. Clifton sometimes gets characterized as celebrating relationships, blackness, and womanhood in an "elemental" way (see the 2010 New Yorker piece). I was struck by how unelemental some of her early poems and memoirs were in their situation in specific places and historical events--the scissor man crossing the line between white and black neighborhoods in "the 1st," specific intersections in "tyrone (1) ("the buffalo soldiers / have taken up position / corner of jefferson and sycamore ), a strike by Polish steelworkers in Buffalo, poems to Malcom X, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale. If she writes about relationships, blackness, and womanhood some of her poems are about what this meant in very specific times, places, and personal and political struggles. Anyway, just a small observation in this happy rereading. I walked away thinking of Clifton's work as far more multifaceted and as involving more transformations between books than I'd originally thought. Some poems I'd like to come back to, perhaps teach: "good times" (24-25), "flowers" (47-50), "adam and eve" (91), "in salem" (111), "she insists on me" (136), "august the 12th" (172).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Devin

    I saw Lucille Clifton’s Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980 on a list, marked it To-Read on Goodreads, and then got a text from Teresa, who is also on Goodreads, saying she had it and did I want to read it? I love it when that happens. Lucille Clifton was a poet from Buffalo, New York. She passed away in 2010. She has been a finalist twice for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. I always try to enjoy poetry because the idea of slowing down and noticing and capturing moments using precise language I saw Lucille Clifton’s Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980 on a list, marked it To-Read on Goodreads, and then got a text from Teresa, who is also on Goodreads, saying she had it and did I want to read it? I love it when that happens. Lucille Clifton was a poet from Buffalo, New York. She passed away in 2010. She has been a finalist twice for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. I always try to enjoy poetry because the idea of slowing down and noticing and capturing moments using precise language is very appealing. But the thing is, I just don’t always understand poems. Clifton’s poems are short. The ones I understood were about mothers, motherhood, aging and aging bodies, friendship between women, and racism. The last 50 pages of the book were in paragraph form but still had a poetic slant. These words captured some of Ms. Clifton’s familial history, including the repeated refrain from the women in her life, "Be proud, you're from Dahomey women!" calling back her Benin ancestors.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I'm not used to reading poetry, and this book was introduced to me as a mix of poetry and prose, so I wasn't sure quite what to expect. In the end, there was more poetry than I'd hoped, but the poetry was also better than I'd imagined it might be. Which makes sense, really, because it was one of Clifton's poems in the Paris Review that started me off looking for more of her writing to read. In prose and poetry alike, Clifton distils moods and goings-on perfectly. "The slow dance between the stree I'm not used to reading poetry, and this book was introduced to me as a mix of poetry and prose, so I wasn't sure quite what to expect. In the end, there was more poetry than I'd hoped, but the poetry was also better than I'd imagined it might be. Which makes sense, really, because it was one of Clifton's poems in the Paris Review that started me off looking for more of her writing to read. In prose and poetry alike, Clifton distils moods and goings-on perfectly. "The slow dance between the streets and the cells", "the young Black boy's initiation into wine and worse", "I have a woman's certainties; bodies pulled from me, pushed into me" - just three examples of the complex and harrowing made aesthetically palatable by words and cadence that roll off the tongue. My attention wavered on some of the poetry, but because of my unfamiliarity with the medium rather than Clifton being anything other than articulate, open, and fundamentally honest with her words.

  12. 4 out of 5

    jewelthinks

    When I️ picked up this book, I didn’t realize it was actually a compilation of 4 books of her poetry and a memoir! It’s a lot! A lot to read in a linear way, a lot to take in, digest, reflect on but it’s every bit phenomenal and beautiful and tragic. I’ll be referring to this often... I’ve marked many pages. The memoir is my favorite!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Candy Heilman

    i had added this to my list of "want to read" last month.. then a couple of days ago i found it already on my book shelf, i guess i read it a few years ago (it has my notes & underlinings in it already) but completely forgot. but it was a delightful reread. lucille will always be one of my favorite poets/writers. i had added this to my list of "want to read" last month.. then a couple of days ago i found it already on my book shelf, i guess i read it a few years ago (it has my notes & underlinings in it already) but completely forgot. but it was a delightful reread. lucille will always be one of my favorite poets/writers.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

    An incredible and vast collection of Lucille Clifton's poems comes with a skinny little memoir towards the end. The memoir is short, but it is super rich and evocative and spans 5 generations Lucille's family.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Janée Baugher

    Short poems and aphorisms. In terns of grammar, use of periods but no capitalization. One-word titles are succinct and intriguing. Persona and seemingly personal poems. Imaginative leaps, but do the poems go deep enough, far enough? Readers must decide what's memorable, what's teachable.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rose Peterson

    the memoir > the poetry the memoir > the poetry

  17. 5 out of 5

    Camille

    good

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Stoy

    That was fantastic and unexpected, both the poetry and the memoir/family history.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    One of the best books I've ever read!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I come to rags like a good baby to breakfast • • • I had expected more than this. I had not expected to be an ordinary woman.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kerri Anne

    Once upon a time in undergrad a poetry professor told me various pieces of mine reminded her of Clifton and at that point not having read any Clifton I traipsed to the library and found her, and ultimately found Blessing the Boats and my poetic world was rocked and that collection was immediately owned, and happily read and re-read until the cover looked like it no longer wanted to remain attached to the rest of its pages. [Five stars for this collection being like looking at Clifton's bones, an Once upon a time in undergrad a poetry professor told me various pieces of mine reminded her of Clifton and at that point not having read any Clifton I traipsed to the library and found her, and ultimately found Blessing the Boats and my poetic world was rocked and that collection was immediately owned, and happily read and re-read until the cover looked like it no longer wanted to remain attached to the rest of its pages. [Five stars for this collection being like looking at Clifton's bones, and repeatedly beautiful without even showcasing some of her best poems.]

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ariel Lynn

    Lucille Clifton is an amazing poet & her memoir was just icing on a very, very tasty cake. I saw her at a poetry festival in NJ many years ago, & I heard the passion in her voice with every word. One note that I think is very important to keep in mind is that, & this is my opinion entirely, her poetry is meant to be read aloud. It makes more sense when it's spoken out loud, the rhythms are tighter, & I really felt the meaning of the words while picking up on her alliteration. Lucille Clifton is an amazing poet & her memoir was just icing on a very, very tasty cake. I saw her at a poetry festival in NJ many years ago, & I heard the passion in her voice with every word. One note that I think is very important to keep in mind is that, & this is my opinion entirely, her poetry is meant to be read aloud. It makes more sense when it's spoken out loud, the rhythms are tighter, & I really felt the meaning of the words while picking up on her alliteration.

  23. 5 out of 5

    courtney

    i am reading this backward, starting with the memoir and then going back through. the spare language and clear, personal voice of these pieces is amazing. the "some jesus" section in particular accomplishes incredibly powerful images and ideas using carefully sourced words and breaks. i am about half through the poetry, and i am really enjoying clifton's language and feeling.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    The book is a great collection not only for the poetry but also for the short memoir on her family and their history. Broken into several sections, the book offers a good overview of Clifton’s early work. She is definitely informed by tone and sound. In some places reminiscent of blues music, other places almost prayer like.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tammy V

    Love the poetry of Lucille Clifton who worked in a local poetry group I belonged to for several years and taught at nearby St Mary's college. She had an amazing ear for what makes a poem sing, and a generous heart. She was not afraid of telling the truth, and let no one off the hook, even when she loved them. She died in 2010 and the world has lost a marvelous voice.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Patrice Jones

    I enjoyed the memoir part of this book much better than the poems. I had never heard of Lucille Clifton, the first woman in her family, at the time, to finish high school and go to college. I even discovered that I might be distantly related to this woman, but more research has to be done to confirm that. I am glad I read this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    the short writing in this collection of poems is forthright and true to this poet's experience. putting this review up here because "Carmello" has also used this title to tag her writing. sample line: "I am left with plain hands and/ nothing to give you but poems."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kiesha

    every so often I luck upon a book that truly uplifts and nourishes my emotional and spiritual health. a book that teaches as much as it reveals about the self. it's always a blessing when it happens. lucille clifton is a blessing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Khemauset Ankh

    I LOVE this collection of poems. They are short, gentle and fierce. Lucille Clifton doesn't use many words nor does she use big words. She drives the point home with the grace of a gazelle or the fierceness of the Black mother she is. Wonderful read, the poetry and the memoir.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eva

    4-4.5 stars I loved this. Lucille Clifton's writing is lovely, her content is great and at times powerful, and the short memoir is quite special with some compelling family members and important stories. I also enjoyed mentions of the Dahomey women!

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