We’re especially delighted the MacArthur Foundation honored poet Claudia Rankine for her work “illuminating the emotional and psychic tensions that mark the experiences of many living in twenty-first-century America.” Foundation president Joseph Coulson taught Citizen, her most recent book, at the Great Books Summer Program at Stanford University earlier this year. “Citizen is contemporary literature at its best—a prose poem of unsparing observation and clear-eyed power,” said Coulson. “The voice and the unfolding narratives in Citizen draw readers close and challenge long-held beliefs and assumptions about the ways we live.”
Citizen, long listed for the National Book Award in 2014, is a follow-up to Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, the poet’s 2004 inquiry into authenticity in a post-9/11 world. The works share a subtitle— “An American Lyric,” a phrase that for Rankine carries a specific set of meanings: “to pull the lyric back into its realities.” “It always surprises me,” she reflected in a Los Angeles Times interview, “when people say that the realm of the lyric is the personal and the personal is not political. I just don’t know how we can get to 2014 and say that with a straight face. When you think of a poet like Yeats, how can you say politics is not in the poem? When you think of Milosz, how can you say politics is not in the poem?” Rankine, who is also an essayist and playwright, was named the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University earlier this year.