Dianca London Potts, on behalf of the The School of Writing at The New School and the NBCC, interviewed Claudia Rankine about her book Citizen (Graywolf), which is among the final five selections and final four selections in the categories of Criticism and of Poetry, respectively, for the 2014 NBCC awards.
Dianca London Potts: The hybridity of Citizen: An American Lyric creates an extremely evocative account of experience and memory. How did the structure of Citizen aid in your exploration of our nation’s legacy of racism?
Claudia Rankine: I wished to build the space of Citizen a body at a time. In a sense, the idea was to populate the space of the text by peopling it with individuals interacting in ordinary ways that get interrupted by one person’s inability to see the body across from them as just another person. Structurally, it was important to have the interactions accumulate until we were all in a room together witnessing the more blatant, tragic aggressions against the black body.
DLP: I was particularly fascinated by the use of sighing in Section IV. Could you discuss the significance of the sigh as a response to white supremacy?
CR: I was interested in the sigh as a signal of needing to breathe — the need to let something go. I have always understood it to be more of a gesture of recognition and resignation rather than an act of resistance.
Read the rest of the interview here: http://newschoolwriting.org/nbcc-criticism-finalist-claudia-rankine-conversation-dianca-london-potts/