Monday, April 28, 2008

Poem: Claudia Rankine

I've highlighted her books before, but I don't think I've ever posted a poem by Claudia Rankine, so let's get this lovefest started right! I think she's producing some of the most fascinating and distinctive poetry--or work in and around that particular signifier--out there today, and her last book, Don't Let Me Be Lonely, was one of those books I carted around me with me for months, reading in it snippets of amazement at what she's achieved. (I did the same with Plot, which became one of my constant companions for months in Providence.) I haven't yet taught it because I haven't had the opportunity to do so, but one of these days, one of these days. (And then there's the eternal dream, of bringing so many of the poets I know and admire to the university....)

I thought of typing out one of the poems from Rankine's most recent book, but then I found the following poem on the Dia Center for the Arts's old poetry site, which occasioned a moment of nostalgia before I decide to copy the poem over here. (I do recommend folks head up to Beacon if they get the chance, because the town itself is a gem, but the disappearance of the old Dia sites in Soho and Chelsea, and that incomparable poetry series, with Brigde Mullins's grand introductions and the readers' sometimes complementary, sometimes clashing performances, will never be matched again.) Plot is, among other things, a book about assemblage, about the construction of lives, of domesticity, of subjectivity and interiorities, within a lyric--and one could say a narrative--field. Or a plot. The follow poem, then, enacts this idea.


Though a previousness, cushioned by dark, aggregates the room
(for there is no disparity),

a room is brought into existence, the activity of--

Here Liv is letting herself feel as she feels, her will yielding to
streams, the lyric field of her everyday depths.

Her presence is. It's come along, is lost, is loss, is wallside
reconciling: can I love now please?

Or in inclusion she bursts into a hood of tenderness: the body's
anguish and flesh and all reflected in the absorbed atmosphere
soaking her being,

then the self feels deeper the depicted insistence engaged, its
essential nest, its scape--

And always and each contiguous thought, approaching the
distance, augments. Viewed against, the mind reshapes and here
is refuge without its tent.

All that's resolved plots against her dividing self, binding her as
if any intervening space is recess for

her grave, an equivalence overlaying presence. Can I love now

Copyright © Claudia Rankine, from Plot, New York: Grove Press, 2001.

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