Claudia Rankine recently received a MacArthur Genius Award for her work, so her name came up on the Booker Prize Reading Group and her book, Citizen, sounded like a good way for me to improve my virtually non-existent poetry reading. I’ve made it a challenge for this year to read some kind of poetry every month and I’ll have to log it and blog it. This particular book has also won numerous awards.
Citizen: An American Lyric
by Claudia Rankine
2014 / 160 pages
read by Allyson Johnson 1h 37m
rating 9.7 – very literary essays –
(read and listened)
I’m not sure it’s poetry – but it’s more than simple narrative – the subtitle probably says it – “a lyric.”
Anyway, it’s a physically beautiful little book with interesting graphics and photographs scattered throughout, I think to bring the reality home. One graphic is a piece of film footage, another is a line of heads. The narrative is primarily made up of tiny narratives which are absolutly worth reading more than once or twice – I’d say 5 times each is a minimum to let the words wash over you and then comprehend them and then sink into you and then wash over again. – Amazing. (Chapter 2 is a longer piece of prose.)
The basic theme of the 7 chapters is how racism exhibits itself in everyday life. I’d say that in some places there are similarities to Te-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me – (2015) which I read two times spread several months apart. The books both deal with the realities of being Black in America and how it’s about the bodies, male or female.
(There seems to be something missing from the Kindle version at the end of Chapter 6 – the Audible version kept going for a bit after the Kindle version stopped.)
Chapter 7 is a longish free verse poem followed by more snippets of stories.
This is powerful stuff – self-righteous at times, vulnerable at other times, sad and soft and indignant – wise. About bodies and minds and connections or disconnections.
Wikipedia has the some chapter summaries –
Interesting essay at Entropy: https://entropymag.org/the-limitations-of-claudia-rankine-and-ta-nehisi-coates-common-project/