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Clifton gained national attention in l969 with her first volume, praised for its craft and its evocation of urban black life. Thus her early work is significant to the Black Arts Movement; however, four subsequent volumes demonstrate that hers is a poetry not of race but of revelation, in the manner of Denise Levertov. Characterized by brevity, simplicity of language, and polyrhythmical phrasing, her work celebrates the spiritual revealed in the ordinary. Many poems (e.g. the 'two-headed woman' and 'Lucifer' sequences) depend on voice for their dramatic situation, yet they are not dramatic monologues, like those of Gwendolyn Brooks, but rather voiced meditations. Clifton writes that she hears characters speak, including family members and mythic figures.


From The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English. Copyright © 1994 by Oxford University Press.