Claudia Rankine (1963-) is a poet, essayist, playwright and the editor of several anthologies. Her most recent work, the book-length poem, Citizen: An American Lyric, won the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Award, the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Collection, the 2015 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry, among others – in addition, Citizen holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category.
Rankine's poetry often blends genres and explores the subject matter of race and the imagination. Although she experiments with many forms, Rankine often uses prose poetry (prose that uses the rhetorical devices of poetry) to explore ideas of truth in literature and politics. Some fantastic examples of her poetry include:
“Another friend tells you you have to learn not to absorb the world. She says sometimes she can hear her own voice saying silently to whomever—you are saying this thing and I am not going to accept it. Your friend refuses to carry what doesn’t belong to her.” (From Citizen)
“You are you even before you grow into understanding you are not anyone, worthless, not worth you. Even as your own weight insists you are here, fighting off the weight of nonexistence. And still this life parts your lids, you see you seeing your extending hand as a falling wave— I they he she we you turn only to discover the encounter to be alien to this place. Wait. The patience is in the living. Time opens out to you. The opening, between you and you, occupied, zoned for an encounter, given the histories of you and you— And always, who is this you? The start of you, each day, a presence already— Hey you—” (From Citizen)
Challenge: Write a prose poem in less than 100 words, about a political and/or social issue that is important to you.