Poet Claudia Rankine | 2016 MacArthur Fellow

Poet Claudia Rankine | 2016 MacArthur Fellow


Poetry is going everywhere. Everyone’s a secret poet. I’m Claudia Rankine and I’m a poet. When I was in college at Williams, I
studied the work of Adrienne Rich and I thought this says almost what I would
like to say and, after that class, I just started writing. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely
was a book that was written after 9/11. I really was interested in
investigating the culture of fear that seem to be forming right before our eyes.
Citizen began as a response to events happening in American culture. The first
piece of Citizen was written right after Katrina. I recorded all of the CNN
coverage and was fascinated by how racism colored the reporting. After that,
I began to respond to events that caught the public imagination–mostly things
like police shooting of unarmed black men and other places of blatant
injustice that clearly was tied to racism. I call it a marked lyric because I see
these pieces as a different kind of song; that instead of ‘oh say can we see’, this
is what I’m seeing. Did she just really say that? He said
what? What did she do? Did I hear what I think I heard? Did that
just come out of my mouth. his mouth, your mouth? ForI think over a decade now, I have been
making video essays with my partner, the filmmaker John Lucas. ‘…is the woman
getting off at the next door? No, she would rather stand all the way to
Union Station. The space next to the man is a pause in a conversation you are
suddenly rushing to fill.’ One of the things that we did in one of the more
recent videos we made ‘Situation Eight’ was that collected all of the
police shooting videos that are out there and brought them together into a
continuous narrative. ‘…the perceived inability to trust another. No one wishes
his or her sense of trust violated.’ I feel like one of our American
peculiarities which is not serving us is our amnesia around trauma. I think the fellowship gives you
time. Iit gives you time to go down roads you might not necessarily feel you could
have afforded in the past.

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