Biography of Claudia Rankine

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Rankine was educated at Catholic all-girls schools before coming to the US to study at Williams College and then at Columbia University. Rankine is an internationally recognized poet and scholar. She co-edits the anthology series American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language, as well as The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. Rankine's own work has appeared in many journals, including Harper's, GRANTA, the Kenyon Review, and the Lana Turner Journal. She is currently the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University and a MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient.

In 2004, Rankine published Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, which combined poetry, essay, lyric, and television imagery, creating an entirely new medium for storytelling. She won an Academy of American Poets Fellowship for this work.

In 2011, Rankine published the play The Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue, which was a Distinguished Development Project Selection in the American Voices New Play Institute. In 2013, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

In 2014, Graywolf Press published her book of poetry, Citizen: An American Lyric, which brought her the most fame and recognition of all her books so far, with more than 150,000 copies in print. Citizen is a book that is hard to categorize, often described as a work that straddles various genres, as is evident by its nomination for a National Book Critic Circle Award in both poetry and criticism. It remains widely relevant as racial tensions grow in the US and around the world.

Mark Doty, a fellow poet, wrote this about her work: "Claudia Rankine’s formally inventive poems investigate many kinds of boundaries: the unsettled territory between poetry and prose, between the word and the visual image, between what it’s like to be a subject and the ways we’re defined from outside by skin color, economics, and global corporate culture. This fearless poet extends American poetry in invigorating new directions."

In a 2016 interview about Citizen, Rankine touches on what she hopes readers will get out of her work when it comes to combatting racist hegemony in America: “To mourn as a society means that we recognize our culpability in systems of injustice—and that mourning, which inevitably has tied to it recognition, keeps present the reality of our history.”

Study Guides on Works by Claudia Rankine