MacArthur ‘genius’ Claudia Rankine, poet Solmaz Sharif deliver Ernest Sandeen Memorial Reading

Wtww2 2017

Seating was scarce in McKenna Hall Auditorium on Thursday night as students and faculty gathered to listen to poems and excerpts of stories about race, discrimination and how to find hope in it all.

Poet, essayist and 2016 MacArthur “genius” Grant recipient Claudia Rankine delivered the second annual Ernest Sandeen Memorial Reading hosted by the Creative Writing Program. She chose the poet Solmaz Sharif to accompany her for the reading as well as to share some of her own poems.

Aside from the packed auditorium for the reading, Rankine and Sharif also held a Q&A session earlier in the day that was open to the public. Both poets took questions about the role of poetry as a catalyst for change and reflected on the process it took to produce their works.

Rankine talked about her book “Citizen” — a book of criticism and poetry filled with images and artwork, as well as stories of microagressions and racist language. She said poetry is a successful method for talking about topics like these because of its ability to hold feeling.

“I think what poetry does that other genres don’t do that easily is … no matter what your approach is, the poem is still in the realm of feeling,” Rankine said.

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Originally published The Observer at on January 27, 2017.