Susan Rankine 's Citizen, An Exploration Of Everyday Racism Essay example

807 Words Jun 9th, 2015 4 Pages
Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, an exploration of everyday racism through lyric essays, scraps of film script and photography, might look far more like prose than the traditional definition of poetry, but the innovative work from the acclaimed American writer has made it onto the shortlist for one of the UK’s top poetry prizes, the Forward.

Running to 160 pages, Citizen, subtitled An American Lyric, eschews the likes of iambic pentameter and rhyme to command the reader’s attention with a second-person present narrative laying out a series of incidents in which black Americans – sometimes the Jamaica-born Rankine herself – encounter racism. Rankine also includes photo reels of Zinedine Zidane’s 2006 World Cup head butt, Obama’s oath of office and JMW Turner’s painting The Slave Ship. The Forward prize called it “a bold challenge to historic definitions of poetic form”.

“He tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there,” Rankine writes near the start.

“You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicated this is an okay conversation to be having.

“Why do you feel comfortable saying this to me? You wish the light would turn red or a police siren would go off so you could slam on the brakes, slam into the car ahead of you, fly forward so quickly both your faces would suddenly be exposed to the wind.

“As usual you drive straight through…

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