Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is assistant professor of English at Cornell University. She is the author of the poetry collection Black Swan, winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, and coauthor, with Elizabeth Alexander, of the chapbook Poems in Conversation and a Conversation. Her poems have appeared in African American Review, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Rattapallax, Shenandoah, and in several anthologies, including Bum Rush the Page and Role Call.
Drawing upon intersections of astronomy and mathematics, history, literature, and lived experience, the poems in Open Interval locate the self in the interval between body and name.
Winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Prize
Selected by Marilyn Nelson
Finalist, 2003 Paterson Poetry Prize
“Imagine Leda black—” begins Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon’s exciting new collection of poems. Mixing vernacular language with classical mythology, modern struggles with Biblical trials, she gives voice to silenced women past and present.
In Van Clief-Stefanon’s powerful voice, last night’s angry words “puffed / into the dark room like steam / punching through the thick surface / of cooking grits.” She remembers a child’s innocence “lost / in the house where I learned the red rug / against my chest, my knees / my tongue, . . . .” Black Swan is filled with pain, loss, hope, and the promise of salvation.