Did I tell you about reading Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, an American Lyric? Well, actually, I have nothing new to add to all those marvellous analysis, reviews and comments already spinning around in the world …
… other than my very personal & intimate feeling of astonishment – of totally awe: How did she do it?! How can Claudia Rankine make me see the world as if for the first time? How can poetry make my new sights become bodily felt feelings? How can lyrical writing become so sharp; so precise, so clear, and so totally up to date?
Citizen is a hybrid text composed of fragments – of essayistic prose, elegiac verse, poetic diary lines, video scripts and images.
If one was to put it short, one could say: Citizen is a meditation on race, on racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life. It’s a story about what it’s like to be a black person in America — how “black bodies” are contained. But we all know there is more: poetry can never be summed up, you have to read for yourself to get a feeling of what I’m gabbling about. This is how Citizen sounds:
The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.
At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?
It’s as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepherd has gained the power of speech. And though you back up a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You have an appointment? she spits back. Then she pauses. Everything pauses. Oh, she says, followed by, oh, yes, that’s right. I am sorry.
I am so sorry, so, so sorry.
Claudia Rankine: Citizen, an American Lyric
This is Claudia Rankine:
Claudia Rankine, b. 1963
Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014)
Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2004)
PLOT (Grove Press, 2001)
The End of the Alphabet (Grove Press, 1998)
Nothing in Nature is Private (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1995)