A Caribbean Reading of American Cultural Idealism
Kamau Brathwaite’s Poetry Meets Claudia Rankine’s Lyricism
In Middle Passages, Edward Kamau Brathwaite’s poetic discourse propels the reader through the landscape of a postmodern American society where the cultural achievements, despite the historical suffering of modern African American people, are regathered and offered through the poetic lens of re-memory as an American artifact of excelling cultural value. In this paper, Brathwaite’s poetic discourse joins that of Claudia Rankine, whose Don’t Let Me Be Lonely offers a contemporary poetic confrontation between the American media’s distillation of history and the poetic re-memory of those events, through the eyes of the Black community. The collections maintain strong political overtones in their historicizing of the suffering that African peoples have endured wherever they are in the black diaspora. Read together, they challenge the mythological depictions of mainstream America as a nation that embraces cultural difference, while upholding the need for continuing a discourse that contests mainstream representations of the status quo of the black American community.
Keywords: Black American literature • Middle Passage • Claudia Rankin • Memory • Kamau Brathwaite