Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine

About Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine is a Jamaican-born American poet, playwright, and author of the New York Times best-selling poetry collection Citizen: An American Lyric (2014). She currently serves as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University. Her work is simultaneously described as Hybrid, Experimental, Post-911, and Post-Colonial. She has written two plays and five volumes of poetry, much of which centers on Micro-Aggressions, or the type of racial undercurrents that cut through many statements and acts in daily life, and on whiteness, including projects like her newest work, a drama called The White Card (2019) and her recent art exhibit called Stamped (2018), which considers what it means to choose to dye one's hair blond, a question of the type often entertained by other African American writers, such as Gwendolyn Brooks.
Rankine was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on January 1, 1963, and moved to the Bronx in New York with her parents at the age of seven. Although her father was a hospital orderly and her mother a nurse's aide, she grew up in A Reading Household and was encouraged to read poetry at an early age. Rankine began writing poetry as a sophomore at Wiliams College in Massachusetts, where she earned a bachelor of arts in English in 1985. She has noted that: [f]or a child of immigrants, (choosing to be a poet) was a huge decision and that her parents would have preferred her to study another discipline. Nevertheless, she earned a master of fine arts degree in poetry from Columbia University in 1993 and subsequently began teaching.
Rankine composed her first poetry collection, Nothing in Nature Is Private, in 1993 while she worked toward her graduate degree; The End of the Alphabet followed in 1998. Her third collection, PLOT, was published in 2001 and Don't Let Me Be Lonely in 2004. In Nothing in Nature Is Private, she explores the consequences of America's colonialist history and its continued influence, depicting the alienation, loss, and dislocation experienced as a part of embodying a bicultural identity" of a Jamaican couple who have migrated to the United States.
After winning the Cleveland State University Poetry Center's International Poetry Competition with her first publication, she received several other awards and fellowships. In 2009 she ventured into drama with Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue, performed on a bus that departed from Harlem and drove to various locales in the South Bronx area. Her most acclaimed work, Citizen: An American Lyric, her fifth book of poetry, is the first book in history to be nominated twice for a National Book Critics Circle Award and the only poetry collection to make the nonfiction category of the New York Times best seller list. It received multiple accolades, including the Los Angeles Times Book Award.

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