Whether it’s attending drunken FroSci lectures or showing up to Tunisian talks, Bwog loves to learn in the classroom and beyond. We sent Poetry Professional Briana Bursten to check out Justice Poetry: Readings and Discussion with Claudia Rankine, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Messiah. Read about her evening of learning and listening below!
A genuine feeling of reverence was evident as individuals from various ages and backgrounds crowded the Schapiro Center’s Davis Auditorium this past Tuesday for Justice Poetry: Readings and Discussion with Claudia Rankine, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Messiah. The evening of sharing and dialogue began with opening remarks from Barnard Associate English Professor Monica Miller. Miller explained that each poet would read pieces that thematically center on issues of justice, and that readings were encouraged to be broken up by anecdotes and explanations by the poets themselves.
The first poet was Claudia Rankine, a graduate of the MFA Poetry Program at Columbia and a current English professor at Pomona College. Rankine is the author of multiple collections of poetry, and she spoke with sincerity as she read three pieces from her latest book, entitled Citizen. Rankine’s attention towards racial issues and current injustices was particularly evident through her anecdotes, which were inserted between her readings. One of my favorite stories that Rankine shared had to do with a discussion that she had with one of her friends during a walk through their California neighborhood. Rankine spoke of a time when she asked this friend when she has “felt the most white.” Her friend told her of experiences on the East Coast when taking public transportation and how every time she boarded a subway or a train, there would almost always be a black man with an empty seat next to him. Rankine explained that her friend would always “feel the most white” when she consciously made the choice to take this seat. This anecdote was followed by the Rankine’s final reading of the night— an incredibly powerful poem about the symbolism of this “empty seat.” Rankine remained seated on stage while the two other poets shared their work.