Claudia Rankine Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although Claudia Rankine (RAHN-keen) is best known for her poetry, she has collaborated with Melanie Joseph, the artistic director of New York’s Foundry Theater, to create a play called The Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue (pr., pb. 2009). This performance piece was researched and written through a grant from the New Play Development Program of the National Endowment for the Arts and was developed from interviews conducted throughout the New York City borough. As a hybrid and mobile piece, the play has audience members board a bus that takes them through the South Bronx. In transit, playgoers witness live “happenings” and listen on headphones to actors performing Rankine’s narrative. In addition to playwriting, Rankine has worked on screenplays for collaborative film essays with her husband, photographer John Lucas.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Regarded as a principal lyric poet of the twenty-first century, Claudia Rankine has pushed the limits of genre by combining traditional poetic forms with prose, dialogue, and visual imagery. Critics and fellow poets have pointed out that in each of her four published collections, Rankine’s poems do not exist independently from one another; instead, she is known for writing complete, stunningly intricate books that are broken into single poems. Her first collection, Nothing in Nature Is Private, won the Cleveland Poetry Center’s International Poetry Competition, and her critically acclaimed book Don’t Let Me Be Lonely is regarded as one of the most impressive and intrepid prose poems of the twenty-first century. In 2005, Rankine received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, a stipend designed to provide support for an established poet. She was also shortlisted for the 2005 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. Rankine’s work has been published in the Boston Review, Jubilat, TriQuarterly, and Poetry Project Newsletter. Her poems have also been featured in several anthologies, including American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry (2009), Great American Prose Poems (2003), Hammer and Blaze (2002), Best American Poetry 2001 (2001), Step into a World (2000), and The New Young American Poets (2000).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Barresi, Dorothy. “Baby Boom Poetry and the New Zeitgeist.” Prairie Schooner 83, no. 6 (2009): 175-193. Places Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely within a tradition of baby-boomer poets who are confronting the twenty-first century with sensitivity and weight. Attends to the book’s obsession with death and detail in an age of mind-numbing media overload.

Bell, Kevin. “Unheard Writing in the Climate of Spectacular Noise: Claudia Rankine on TV.” The Global South 3, no. 1 (2009): 93-107. An in-depth academic essay that grapples with the philosophical and tonal qualities of Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. Looks at how Rankine demonstrates that popular cultural forms, such as news and advertising, are linked to experimental writing and actual human suffering.

Morris, Mervin. “The American Light: Two Jamaican Poets in the USA.” Mississippi Review 24, no. 3 (1996): 36-48. Compares Rankine’s Nothing in Nature Is Private to Florida Bound (1995), the work of Geoffery Philp, another poet born in Jamaica. Provides critical readings of the poems “Red Hills Road,” “Hellshire Beach,” “Descending from Darkness,” and “Fragment of a Border.” Focuses on the writer’s persona and style as she grapples with being a female, racial “other” in the United States.

Rankine, Claudia. “Claudia Rankine.” Interview. In The Verse Book of Interviews: Twenty-seven Poets on Language, Craft, and Culture, edited by Brian Henry and Andrew Zawacki. Amherst, Mass.: Verse Press, 2005. In this interview, first published in Verse magazine, Rankine talks about poetics and how her culture influences her writing.