Born in Jamaica in 1963, Claudia Rankine earned her BA in English from Williams College and her MFA in poetry from Columbia University.
She is the author of several collections, including Just Us: An American Conversation (Graywolf Press, 2020); Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014), which received the 2016 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Book Prize for Poetry, the 2015 Forward Prize for Poetry, and the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry; and Nothing in Nature is Private (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1995), which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize.
Rankine has edited numerous anthologies, including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind (Fence Books, 2015), American Poets in the Twenty-First Century: The New Poetics (Wesleyan University Press, 2007), and American Women Poets in the Twenty-First Century: Where Lyric Meets Language (Wesleyan University Press, 2002). Her plays include Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue, commissioned by the Foundry Theatre and Existing Conditions, co-authored with Casey Llewellyn. She has also produced a number of videos in collaboration with John Lucas, including “Situation One.”
Of her book Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, an experimental multi-genre project that blends poetry, essays, and images, poet Robert Creeley said:
Claudia Rankine here manages an extraordinary melding of means to effect the most articulate and moving testament to the bleak times we live in I’ve yet seen. It’s master work in every sense, and altogether her own.
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 2019, Rankine was inducted into the American Academy of Arts And Sciences. Her other honors include the Jackson Poetry Prize, as well as fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowments for the Arts. In 2005, Rankine was awarded the Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement by the Academy of American Poets. In 2016, Rankine was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and named a United States Artists Zell fellow in literature. In 2017, she founded the Racial Imaginary Institute, “a moving collaboration with other collectives, spaces, artists, and organizations towards art exhibitions, readings, dialogues, lectures, performances, and screenings that engage the subject of race.”
Rankine is currently a Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University.