From Claudia Rankine's site:
If you write about race frequently what issues, difficulties, advantages, and disadvantages do you negotiate?
First I think of Harryette Mullen's essay about writing for people who haven't even been born. So, I first think of what another African American writer writes about audience. Because I am first off thinking of Hoagland's "white people" comment.
Do I write for white people? I don't think I do. Is my audience at readings (where I see "them") is caucasian, latin@, asian-american, african american, probably in that order.
- How do we invent the language of racial identity--that is, not necessarily constructing the "scene of instruction" about race, but create the linguistic material of racial speech/thought?
- If you have never written consciously about race why have you never felt compelled to do so?
When I have written about race, I have been deeply concerned about writing in particular about slavery in the US. In other words, I am not really sure my writing is important or correct enough to seek publication for it. Helps that the ms. got put in turnaround.
- If you don’t consider yourself in any majority how does this contribute to how race enters your work?
I think about women, the minority majority, a great deal, and the problems of translation / reading in English 1) writing from thousands of years ago, 2) writing originally not in English, 3) the additional effort to find writing by non-European women, particularly outside a few usual Japanese, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and African suspects.
- If fear is a component of your reluctance to approach this subject could you examine that in a short essay that would be made public?
No, but I think it is an unusual combination of fear that comes from knowledge and fear that comes from knowing one's own ignorance.
- If you don’t intend to write about race but consider yourself a reader of work dealing with race what are your expectations for a poem where race matters?
I think race needs to matter in the spirit of the poem when race matters in the poem. I think this discussion about audience and address is disconcerting, there is some very strong mismatch with how I think about poetry -- what it IS -- & the idea that one might *deliberately* address readers (often fellow writers) of a certain race, the idea that while there may or may not be certain aspects of the writing, its music & meaning, that indicate race (my old idea was -- is the default white?), that writing a poem might be making weird shit in a limited way.
- Do you believe race can be decontextualized, or in other words, can ideas of race be constructed separate from their history?
Only in the simple experience of race -- the recognition of, say, skin color -- but all of the cultural expression and etc. -- that needs context to try to understand --
Also, I was taught in integrated "70s" schools when young, but then in lily white upper schools. And then I worked on corporations. So, while on the one hand, the vast majority of people I meet, I never think of race at all, I might not be able to identify race, outside of "race writing" -- there's racial identity presentation...
- Is there a poem you think is particularly successful at inventing the language of racial identity or at dramatizing the site of race as such? Tell us why.
I don't know. I don't really think about it except when I think of failed poems which aren't working because of some people with identity language.