Citizen: An American Lyric

Claudia Rankine. Graywolf (FSG, dist.), $20 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-55597-690-3
In this trenchant new work about racism in the 21st century, Rankine, recently appointed chancellor of the American Academy of Poets and winner of the 2014 Jackson Poetry Prize, extends the innovative formal techniques and painfully clear-sighted vision she established in her landmark Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. Accounts of racially charged interactions, insidious and flagrant, transpiring in private and in the public eye, distill the immediate emotional intensity of individual experience with tremendous precision while allowing ambiguity, ambivalence, contradiction, and exhaustion to remain in all their fraught complexity. Combining poetry, essay, and images from media and contemporary art, Rankine’s poetics capture the urgency of her subject matter. Indeed, much of the book focuses on language: sound bites from cultural commentators; the words of acquaintances, colleagues, and friends; responses and moments of silence; what it means to address and be addressed; and what it means when one’s only recourse is to sigh. “A body translates its you—/ you there, hey you,” she writes, “The worst hurt is feeling you don’t belong so much/ to you.” Once again Rankine inspires sympathy and outrage, but most of all a will to take a deep look at ourselves and our society. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/18/2014
Release date: 10/07/2014
Ebook - 160 pages - 978-1-55597-348-3
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