Black Has Always Been The Strongest Color

March 21, 2018 - Poetry, Reviews
Author: Claudia Rankine
Publisher: Greywolf Press

Claudia Rankine skillfully and powerfully displays the everyday struggles of a black woman in society throughout her beautiful words of poetry and intense moments of feeling in Citizen. This book is the most muscular, and heaviest page-turner of a poetry book I have ever experienced. The pages are dense with words, thought, and painful notions. The poems successfully weave through everyday life, and small moments that define the days of this colored speaker. Experiencing this day with the speaker was a huge change of perspective. Seeing from the lens of this colored person, and the constant racism and discrimination that is incorporated into tone, and conversation of everyday life is concerning. What kept the pages turning were the sensual experiences that Rankine painted. Within the first few poems, the language was heavy, but so intriguing. Seeing the different ways that very mundane days and happenings can shape a person, especially of color, and affect them is incredible. This book has such effective creativity and innovation–even though these events are not fiction whatsoever. That is what kept me, as a reader, to keep turning the page. My amazement in language, and in the occurrences were so interesting, yet real. And that is what truly hit me as an audience, poet, and human-being.

In addition to Rankine’s creative, non-fiction approach on poetry, the detailed language and powerful word choice were effective in creating a strong, punch-y poem and experience for the reader. Everything was very raw, and organic. The explanation of day-to-day activities and the sensation of feeling was all very real, especially because of the harsh, yet sensitive language. There is also hardly any poems with lineation. They are all dense blocks on the page, or paragraphs. This adheres to the dense subject matter. And I appreciate this weighted thought in creation and formation of this book.
This book not only deals with Rankine’s thoughts and experiences, but also real evidence based racism. There are allusions, and pictures referencing slurs and incidents on TV, and published elsewhere. After reading Rankine’s creative poetry, it was shocking to then see a picture of Serena Williams on ESPN. This element of surprise kept me reading, and curious as to what was coming next. The addition of these real, and public incidents are important to the comprehension of the book as a whole because it proves that these feelings Rankine previously displayed are derived from very real, common, and frequent events and discrimination regarding the colored community. The mention of televised and public incidents validated that this information isn’t just poetry. It isn’t just something pretty to write about–it’s real, it’s raw, and it’s a problem that Rankine preaches about.

Overall this book I highly recommend. It is very eye opening, and important to see from other perspectives. In addition, these poetry book is highly validated by real life events, which makes Rankine’s words even more vivid, and important. This book as a whole is cohesive, surprising, and strong. The poems individually are powerful and organic. I appreciate Claudia Rankine’s work and look forward to reading more of it.


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