Review: Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric
Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My book group picked Citizen for the month of May. One unusually sunny April weekend day, I was bopping around Powell’s dreaming of leisurely summer reads when I came across Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (published in 2004) in the new books, used prices section. I noticed the subtitle is also “An American Lyric” and I thought, hmmm, I should read this one too and I should read it first. So, I did, and now I have less than a week to read the book we are actually discussing. This doesn’t worry me since I read Don’t Let Me Be Lonely in three days. I didn’t read it straight through, though. I would read a section, then close the book to catch my breathe before opening the book again to read more. The book is a co-mingling of words, images, and footnotes. I read them all together the first time through, then flipped back and looked at each separately. I got something different each time. The book begins like a simple diary, a recording of life events and that forms the backbone of the book, which dips into image, poem, spoken word, then back to diary. Rankine meditates on television violence, pharmaceuticals, depression, death, and history to show the consequences of fear: dark, pervasive loneliness. It is in the last pages where the book becomes most clearly metapoetic: “Sometimes you read something and a thought that was floating around in your veins reorganizes itself into the sentence that reflects it.” And this is the digression that saves you from being overcome by the dark truths in the book. Rankine writes, “In order from something to be handed over a hand must extend and a hand must receive. We must both be here in this world in this life in this place indicating the presence of.” Rankine suggests the possibility of art as perhaps not an antidote, but at least a respite to the pervasive loneliness that arises from the inevitability or death, especially in our modern world.

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