Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Lucille Clifton’s work is rooted in the black experience, in Christian idealism, and in her feminine sensibilities. “Femaleness” is the energy that informs many of her poems: she often writes about children, family, and keeping a household. She is interested in revealing personal joys and sadnesses in order to suggest the experiences people share—what makes human experience a continuous and collective experience.

Clifton is a self-proclaimed poet of black culture, and she clearly wishes to transmit values. As in her many children’s stories, she wishes to convey the “good news” that despite dark days there can be and should be joy to look forward to, that ultimately the world is defined by possibility. This vision is strongly embraced in “the lost baby poem.” The pledge of the third stanza clearly indicates that the speaker aims for better days. Also evident is the conviction that people do have choices.

The poem also resonates with communal and historic tidings: It re-announces and reminds readers of the plight that affects many women—many of them black and all of them poor. Not really a political poem (except in the sense that personal problems often lead to political action), it nevertheless takes on a topic that has become highly political. Clifton understands the complexity of the issue of abortion, and she offers no direct comment on the difficult maze of arguments surrounding it. She does offer her view, via...

(The entire section is 442 words.)