[CLaudia ] Rankine, born in Jamaica and raised in Kingston and New York, is blunt and thoughtful, not unlike her work. In conversation, she leans forward, speaking slowly, often pausing to consider the most useful phrase or word. This, we might say, is the poet in her; she was recently elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. At the same time, her writing challenges such expectations, blurring the lines of not only form but also content, requiring us to think of poetry anew.
‘Poet Claudia Rankine ruminates on the body politic in ‘Citizen’,
Proust says memory is of two kinds.
There is the daily struggle to recall
where we put our reading glasses
and there is a deeper gust of longing
that comes up from the bottom
of the heart
At sudden times
For surprise reasons.
Here is an excerpt from a letter Proust wrote
We think we no longer love our dead
But that is because we do not remember them;
We catch sight of an old glove
And burst into tears.
– Anne Carson, Float
Really to forget something you have to forget you have forgotten it.
Anne Carson, Stacks (in Float, )
Tv in Iran hotel
I agree with Freud and many other psychologists that our memories of being a baby and a very young infant hardly exist consciously but do shape us subconsciously. Investigating as far as possible into my own memory, there are things . . . that take me aback. I met an elderly lady who had known my grandparents, and she said how fond I’d been of my grandmother. I couldn’t remember. I had memories of her, but I didn’t remember a very great fondness. But she said that whenever I quarrelled with my mother, I would run away to my grandmother’s house. And that after my grandmother died, I was found outside the back door, banging and crying . . . I thought, How very touching. What a Dickensian detail. But I don’t remember anything like that, you know. . . .
. . when I was having my bad asthma attacks, my father said he wondered if it didn’t have anything to do with me having been chastised so often in infancy, and he reminded me of my defiance over food and how, when he came back from work, he would have to spank me for not eating the meals. He hated doing it, but he felt he had to. And then, since this did not calm me down, I would go into hysterics and start banging my head against the wall. To quiet the hysterics, they would fill the bath with cold water and plunge me into it. Which quieted my hysterics right away. I’d be put to bed. One thing was that we were given a good-night kiss. Being put into bed, I would think, I’m not going to let her kiss me tonight. But I could never refuse it, somehow. I’m quite glad, because I think it did shape my character.
And see, this is the thing — I didn’t remember any of it. I only remember it because my father reminded me.
Alasdair Gray , The Art of Fiction, no. 232. interviewer: Valerie Stivers, The Paris Review 2016
. . . most English-made cabinets had a secret drawer. My question about that would be, where did they keep the key to the secret drawer? In another drawer? Even more secret? Is there such a thing as a pun of a pun? Have I told you that your face bewilders me? And that one day rummaging in your cabinet I opened your secret drawer by accident? Whether or not I found a secret there of course I can’t say.
Anne Carson, Sonnet of the English-Made Cabinet with Drawers (in Prose), from Float : A Collection of twenty-two chapbooks whose order is unfixed and whose topics are various
Characters in bestsellers speak the language of men, as Wordsworth put it. They are also goal-orientated; these people grab, do, think, ask, look, love, reach, tell, smile and hold more often than those in less popular books. Most importantly, they know what they want: “need”, “want”, “miss” and “love” are the top four verbs describing the mental and emotional expressions of bestselling characters. Bestsellers are driven by wanting, rather than waiting.
Frances Wilson: What makes a book Popular?
. . . . she “trumpets doubt and ambiguity, not because we are incapable of knowing things,” but because “doubt is fertile.”
Vivien Gornick , reviews Siri Hustvedt’s, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women in The New York Times, December 16th 2016
. . . what makes writing challenging and interesting. How do you get the work to arrive at readers in a way that allows them to stay with it and not immediately dismiss it? It’s something I think about, because I know I’m also writing for people who don’t always hold my positions. It’s not that I think white people are my only audience. It’s that I think of America as my audience, and inside that space are white people as well as people of color. Some white people still believe that white privilege and white mobility are the universal position. If a writer has different experience of the world, the work is no longer seen as transcendent or universal. So as I’m moving around in a piece, I am hearing all those voices in opposition.
Claudia Rankine, interview The Paris Review December 2016
You make work in private, but once it goes public, readers make it their own. They define the work—and, by extension, you—in terms of who they are, what they want or believe.
David L. Ulin , interviewing poet Claudia Rankin, The Paris Review December 2016