Loyola University Maryland

Martin Luther King, Jr., Convocation

About the Speaker

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Claudia Rankine is one of the nation’s most interesting and powerful voices on race in America today. Her work spans various genres, including visual arts and the essay, and draws on everyday experience, popular culture, and history to create a compelling portrait of what it means to be a member of the American community. Rankine’s talk will help the Loyola community sustain a conversation on race on campus, in Baltimore, and in American society.

An award-winning, Jamaican-born poet, Rankine’s fifth book, Citizen: An American Lyric, published late last year, is considered a defining text for our time. Rankine has become known for her “American lyrics”powerful, inventive meditations on everyday racial experience in American life, infused by long legacies of violence up through and beyond Ferguson, Mo. The cover of Citizen is a haunting image of the empty top of a hoodie, reminiscent of the death of Trayvon Martin and American loss.

Citizen received the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Collection, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (it was also a finalist in the criticism category, making it the first book in the award’s history to be a double nominee), the NAACP Image Award, the PEN Open Book Award, and the LA Times Book Award for poetry. It was also nominated for the Hurston/Wright 2015 Legacy Award and was selected as an NPR Best Book of 2014. A finalist for the National Book Award, Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category.

Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. Among her work are Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (2008), in which she combines poetry with essay and visual images to examine personal and political unrest in contemporary American culture; two plays, including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; and numerous video collaborations. She is the editor of several anthologies, including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind.

Rankine lives in California, where she is the Aerol Arnold Chair of the English department at the University of Southern California.