Reviews, The Books, The Life

Book Review – Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980

Title: Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980

Author: Lucille Clifton

Pages: 276

Rating: 5/5

How do I review this book? To say that I loved it does not even come close. A few weeks ago, I only knew one poem by Lucille Clifton — “won’t you celebrate with me”. For the last few years, I have made it my Facebook status on or near my birthday. But recently, The Mellon Foundation reshared its April 2021 announcement of their grant supporting The Clifton House, Clifton’s family home turned artist sanctuary. The notice sent me down a rabbit hole which led me to this book and to Clifton. To say that I am a fan is an understatement. I may actually be obsessed. I want to read everything she’s ever written and everything that has been written about her.

An underrated poet, Clifton isn’t one of the “literary greats” whose names show up on canonical lists. But she should be. In the forward, Aracelis Girmay says:

“No one writes like Lucille Clifton, and yet, if it were possible to open a voice, like a suitcase, to see what it carries inside it, I believe that inside the voices of many of our beloved contemporary writers are the poems of Lucille Clifton.”

I agree. Clifton manages to pack so much meaning into such short poems. Her oldest daughter Sidney said that her mother often joked her poems were so short because she had six children and no closed doors. Still, she managed to find the perfect words to convey her experience. One example I keep coming back to is her poem “why some people be mad at me sometimes”:

why some people be mad at me sometimes

they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and i keep on remembering

This is just one example of the way Clifton masterfully housed whole stories in deceptively simple verses and I cried reading the brief memoir at the end.

Truly, I could go on and on. But I think, like Clifton, I’ll keep this one short.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s