This episode features award-winning poet and thinker Claudia Rankine discussing race in America in the years since the publication of her hybrid form volume of poetry Citizen: An American Lyric. In this lecture, Rankine explores not only what it means to be black in America today, but how the black experience relates to what we unconsciously consider the standard, white experience. In a society that sees whiteness as the default, how do we interpret and interrogate what it means to be white in America? Using a series of examples ranging from the history of color photography to her own Yale classroom in the present day, Rankine’s lecture reminds us that perhaps our current political climate shouldn’t come as such a surprise after all.
Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; numerous video collaborations and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. For her book Citizen, Rankine won both the PEN Open Book Award and the PEN Literary Award, the NAACP Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (Citizen was the first book ever to be named a finalist in both the poetry and criticism categories); and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times best seller in the nonfiction category. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in California and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry.