Ms. Rankine said that “part of documenting the micro-aggressions is to understand where the bigger, scandalous aggressions come from.” So much racism is unconscious and springs from imagined fears, she said. “It has to do with who gets pulled over, who gets locked up. You have to look not directly, but indirectly.”
Rankine’s use of multiple negatives works here, as often in this book, to re-create the bizarro crisis of figuring out how to parse a moment that should never have occurred, a response that “doesn’t include acting like this moment isn’t inhabitable.” The moment defies reason and thwarts syntax, reason’s trusted viceroy. Generally, in lyric poems, we expect the past to return with uncanny vividness in the changed context of the present. You could argue that poetry is precisely about this return of the past, its many formal technologies—rhyme, meter, repeated verse and stanza forms—designed to make such recurrences possible and meaningful. In “Citizen,” the past has never receded in the first place. The needle is stuck, so the tune is lost.
— “Color Codes,” by Dan Chiasson, published in The New Yorker (10/27/2014)
National Public Radio has a neat showcase of the 20 books that are finalists for the National Book Award in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature. In addition to Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine, the finalists in poetry include Louise Glück’s Faithful and Virtuous Night, Fanny Howe’s Second Childhood, Maureen N. McLane’s This Blue, and Fred Moten’s The Feel Trio.
National Book Award winners will be announced on November 19.
The L.A. Times spoke with Claudia Rankine about her new book, Citizen: An American Lyric, and released the story on Oct. 9. Discussed: Ferguson, directed narratives, sports, and lyrical poems, among others.
“It always surprises me,” [Rankine] reflects, “when people say that the realm of the lyric is the personal and the personal is not political. I just don’t know how we can get to 2014 and say that with a straight face. When you think of a poet like Yeats, how can you say politics is not in the poem? When you think of Milosz, how can you say politics is not in the poem?”
Read the full interview HERE.
Addressability is at the heart of Citizen, the reason that her “you” marshals such immediate force and leaves behind such intimate unease. It’s the reason that “for white people” is so problematic, even outside its historical echoes. In saying, even implicitly, who we’re speaking to, we say who we’re willing to exclude. Such talk imagines a culture based on the absence of some people, and in doing so, it addresses those people, too.
Read Slate‘s review of “Citizen: An American Lyric,” by Claudia Rankine HERE.
Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press) was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Awards on Sept. 16. The shortlist will be announced on October 15 and the winners on Nov. 19. In addition to Rankine’s Citizen, the full poetry longlist includes:
Linda Bierds, Roget’s Illusion; Brian Blanchfield, A Several World; Louise Glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night; Edward Hirsch, Gabriel: A Poem; Fanny Howe, Second Childhood; Maureen N. McLane, This Blue; Fred Moten, The Feel Trio; Spencer Reece, The Road to Emmaus; Mark Strand, Collected Poems
The poetry judges include Eileen Myles, Katie Peterson, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Robert Polito, and Paisley Rekdal.
Citizen: An American Lyric will hit bookstores on October 7.