It’s a poem! It’s prose! It’s a new genre entirely in Claudia Rankine’s 4th book of poems, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (Graywolf 2004). This book is riveting, both in terms of its content and its hybrid form. Part cultural critique, part memoir, this volume provides a seamless marriage of the personal and the political. The contents include lists, film reviews, memories, photographs, art, fiction, poetry, dreams, journal entries, and more. These disparate items merge and diverge, and the result is lyrical and powerful.
There’s a quiz-like quality to this book. It deals with the society we have created and the isolation that is its by-product. It’s as if we’re being asked existential multiple choice questions:
b) like a number
c) alone, or
d) all of the above?
This book asks tough questions about what it means to be an American at this particular moment in our history. It asks us to reflect on the ways that our media-saturated society co-opts the very language we depend on to voice our resistance.
"Sad is one of those words that has given up its life for our country"
And yet language is all we have, so the text acts to voice and to resist and to survive.
As I read Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, I feel its importance, its relevance. For me at least, it stands out starkly on the landscape of American poetry. I wonder if Rankine has created a multimedia version of the text. It’s a natural for the "new" media.
Ohhh! You’re the othermother! Okay! Now I know why I know your name.
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