On Tuesday, April 14, 2015, the poet and essayist Claudia Rankine visited the Cooper House for an informal discussion on matters of literature, racism, and the imaginary. Rankine’s recent book, Citizen: An American Lyric, was a 2014 National Book Award finalist, amongst other national and international honors. In the discussion, Rankine remarked on Citizen’s impact on both American culture and her own creative process. “Booksellers are telling me that Citizen has created renewed interest in poetry,” Rankine said. “People are buying poetry books again.” Citizen, already in its third printing, has been inseparable from the recent discourse on racism in America, particularly in regards to police violence on Black men, but also relating to other forms of racial violence, found in everyday life. “If this book were about anything else,” Rankine said, “I’d be on to the next project by now. But I feel a responsibility.” Other topics discussed in the hour-long conversation covered the spheres of Blackness and Whiteness that Americans inhabit, the racist pathology of Ebola screening at airports, and the ways we confront suicide and depression in public and private expressions. Later that evening, Rankine read from Citizen in a public event at the UW Art Museum.
Claudia Rankine visits the Cooper House