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About the Series

Photo credit John Lucas

Marygrove welcomes Claudia Rankine as its twenty-eighth author in Marygrove's Contemporary American Authors Lecture Series.

Poet and playwright Claudia Rankine will be the twenty-eighth guest in Marygrove’s Contemporary American Authors Lecture Series. She will deliver the Lillian and Don Bauder Lecture at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 8, 2016.

Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry: Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry; Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (2004); Plot (2001); The End of the Alphabet (1998); and Nothing in Nature Is Private (1995), winner of the Cleveland State Poetry Prize. She is also author of two plays: Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue (2009) and Existing Conditions (2010), along with several edited collections. She has garnered significant critical acclaim throughout her career, including awards and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lannan Foundation. In 2013, she was elected as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets; in 2014 she won the Jackson Poetry Prize.

Her work can be considered experimental, as it often defies and unsettles notions of genre. As poet Mark Doty describes, her "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," he asserts, "extends American poetry in invigorating new directions."

Further, the new directions chartered in Citizen are as timely as they are poignant. The Washington Post contends, "Part protest lyric, part art book, Citizen is a dazzling expression of the painful double consciousness of black life in America," and The New York Times declares, "Citizen is audacious in form. But what is perhaps especially striking [...] is that it has achieved something that eludes much modern poetry: urgency."

Written with equal parts urgency, intensity, and compassion, Citizen is a veritable force. Or, as Hilton Als professes, "Claudia Rankine's Citizen comes at you like doom. It’s the best note in the wrong song that is America. Its various realities—‘mistaken' identity, social racism, the whole fabric of urban and suburban life—are almost too much to bear, but you bear them, because it’s the truth. Citizen is Rankine's Spoon River Anthology, an epic as large and frightening and beautiful as the country and various emotional states that produced it."

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Rankine earned a BA at Williams College and an MFA at Columbia University. She has taught at Case Western Reserve University and Barnard College, among others, and is currently the Henry G. Lee Professor of English at Pomona College.

This series at Marygrove College is an annual event bringing a nationally-known author to our campus for a public lecture and seminar with students. It began when the late Frederick P. Currier, a former Marygrove College trustee, attended a reception on campus and remarked that he would like to bring a national writer to Marygrove for a weekend. Mr. Currier’s start-up check soon followed his suggestion, and in 1989 nearly 600 guests of the College heard Gloria Naylor inaugurate the series.

Since then, through the generous support of corporate donors, foundations, advertisers, friends, alumni, the Marygrove College Board of Trustees, and particularly S. Martin Taylor of DTE Energy, Dr. Lillian Bauder of MASCO Corporation, and the Lillian and Donald Bauder Endowment, we have been able to keep the Series free and accessible to the entire metropolitan Detroit community. To date, nearly 8,000 people have joined us at the Friday night public reading to hear outstanding writers share their work. The Friday evening reading/lecture is followed by a reception and book signing.

In addition to Andrea Lee, participants have heard the following critically acclaimed and prize-winning writers:

 View all of the author profles here. 

Over the life of the Series, hundreds of Marygrove students have completed courses in the visiting authors’ works, and nearly 100 Marygrove students have won Frederick P.Currier, Amy S. McCombs Writing Awards, a writing competition held in conjunction with the Series.

Marygrove welcomes Andrea Lee


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Department Chair

Darcy L. Brandel, Ph.D.
Madame Cadillac Building, Room 262
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Graduate Coordinator

Audrey Becker, Ph.D.
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