Citizen:An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

by Tayé Foster Bradshaw, Kirkwood MO

Today is International Poetry Day. It is a day to pause and remember the place of verse, lyric, prose, and line in helping us to understand and give voice to some of life's complexities.

Rarely is poetry reviewed on this site, a place almost solely dedicated to celebrating black female literary works. Claudia's work, however, almost demands to be noticed.

This small volume is a collection of thoughts, images, and reflections on the place of race and existence in these  United States.

More specifically, she has interwoven the ubiquitious YOU into the fabric of these musings to have everyone ponder what does it mean to be called "citizen."

Is the little black boy in the classroom whose skin invokes an irrational fear in his white female teacher a citizen?

What about the celebrated tennis player whose presence evokes some of the most egregious commentary?

Where is the space held for the man on the train or the woman buying a house?

The feelings that rose up in me were exactly what poetry is meant to inspire. I felt at once a bit of exhaustion and despair, the tiredness that comes with being a woman of color, a black identified woman of mixed ethnicity in a place where my very presence is a contradiction.  It brought some weariness as it also brought pain, the lingering sting of recovery after a surgeon's scalple has removed the offending tumor.

When I closed the last page, I sat still, just wanted to be surrounded with my thoughts.

I read this in the middle of orchestra performances and reading about the antics of presidential candidates, budget cuts and news of another little black boy being suspended from school. I read it against the backdrop of my everyday life and was both exilerated and exhausted by the feelings that enveloped me.

What does it mean to be present here in a place where some want us to "go back to Africa" while others know they need us here but want us hidden from their private enclaves. What does it mean?  if we all suddenly left?

As poetry is intended to be interpretative through the lense of experience, time, and space, I invite you to consider this little volume, a collection of musings from Hurricane Katrina to Trayvon Martin to Mike Brown, and ponder where we are placed in the quest to simply be.

Tayé Foster Bradshaw is the writer's nom de plumme to honor her late parents. She and her family live in a suburb of St. Louis surrounded by books, art, and lots of coffee. Find her on twitter @lattegriot, on Google+ at +Tayé Foster Bradshaw or email her at


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