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Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  4,183 ratings  ·  311 reviews
In this powerful sequence of TV images and essay, Claudia Rankine explores the personal and political unrest of our volatile new century.

I forget things too. It makes me sad. Or it makes me the saddest. The sadness is not really about George W. or our American optimism; the sadness lives in the recognition that a life cannot matter.

The award-winning poet Claudia Rankine,
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Paperback, 155 pages
Published September 1st 2004 by Graywolf Press (first published January 1st 2004)
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Average rating 4.28  · 
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Roxane
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If I could, I would give this book ten stars. It is an amazing, lyrical meditation on loneliness, death, and American after 9/11 with an interesting thread throughout about pharmaceuticals and mental health. This is a superlative book of prose poetry. I found myself marking nearly every page with an idea or moment or phrase I never want to forget.

Julie Ehlers
Don't Let Me Be Lonely was published 14 years ago but still feels so timely. It's mainly about pharmaceuticals and life in the United States after 9/11, which sounds a bit random, but it ends up exploring the intersection of the personal and political quite well. Remarkably, it also foreshadows our current moment, providing some amazing insights on how we got to where we are now. If I had one complaint it's that there could have been a bit more unity among all of these short pieces, but frankly ...more
Lauren
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library, poetry
I came to Rankine's work through Citizen: An American Lyric and it was one of the best books I read in 2016. Don't Let Me Be Lonely, written a decade earlier, was very similar in style - prescient, quirky, and jaw-dropping - but didn't carry the same "oompf" for me as Citizen.

Still worth all 5 stars - a time capsule of the years right after 9/11, and a running thread of mental health, pharmaceutical treatments, and a family crisis - but hard for me to rate as high as the later work - maybe that
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S. Donovan
Mar 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
As a literary genre still fighting for an ironic legitimacy, prose poetry received a Hail Mary the length of Doug Flutie's 1986 game-winning touchdown pass when Claudia Rankine published this book.

Not since I first discovered Baudelaire or Carolyn Forché have I felt I understood what "real" or "good" prose poetry is, or could become, until reading "Don't Let Me Be Lonely."

Many L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E/prose poetry authors once railed against the rigidity and creative bankruptcy of a standardized academi
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Viv JM
This is a really hard book to describe. It lies somewhere between essay and poetry. The themes are those of grief, death, toxicity, medication, race, bewilderment. The writing is absolutely exquisite. This book blew me away. I highly recommend it.
Paris (parisperusing)
"You are, as usual, watching television, the eight-o'clock movie, when a number flashes on the screen: 1-800-SUICIDE. You dial the number. Do you feel like killing yourself? the man on the other end of the receiver asks. You tell him, I feel like I am already dead. When he makes no response you add, I am in death's position. He finally says, Don't believe what you are thinking and feeling. Then he asks, Where do you live? Fifteen minutes later the doorbell rings. … If he is forced to restrain yo ...more
MJ Nicholls
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poems, merkins, distaff
Perhaps a little dated, but if a poet can’t wax about the world now, or then, or now as it was then, what world are we living in? We’re not living in the world now, thassfursure, we’re living in the world then. When topical poems were out. (When this then is, I am uncertain. But let it be said poems about eating cheese in 1907 are hardly taught on campuses—or is it campi?) Anywho. This brisk series of prose-poems or prose lyrics ruminates coolly on contemporary America: scraping away at the dark ...more
Marc
Dec 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, owned
I had the same reaction to this book as I had to Citizen: An American Lyric: From page 1, I did not want to put it down. I actually made myself space it out and not just drop everything and everyone to finish it in a single sitting.

This is a hybrid kind of prosetry lightly sprinkled with imagery. It's almost like small anecdotes and essays combined into a sort of lamenting lyric giving voice to isolation. The personal connects to the cultural connects to national/international events/figures/fac
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Laura
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
This book functions so beautifully as a whole, a genre of its own.



. . . Perhaps we
are not responsible for the lives of our parents--not in
our pores or our very breath. We can expect. We can re-
solve. We can come to terms with. Afterwards we wear
their clothing, sit in their chairs, and remember them.
Profoundly remember them. But we are not responsible. (63)


Cancer slowly settled into her body and lived off it until
it, her body, became useless to itself. A hell of a way
to lose weight, she says whe
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unnarrator
Aug 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Ah, you win, Claudia, for what's basically eighteen blogposts bound up as a book. You might have even gotten 5 stars out of me if it weren't for your ending, which didn't wrap back around to the personal in any way I found satisfying, but was probably meant to be some big-hearted opening out into the political, and I'm at fault as a reader for not respecting that, but it felt tacked on. Like, you just exited throwing a few quotations over your shoulder. Don't get me wrong I'm all FOR Fanny Howe ...more
charlie shaw
"You'd let me be lonely? / I thought I was dead"
"I want to see the lady who deals in death"
"in Bush's case I find myself talking to the television screen: You don't know because you don't care"
"I don't know, I just find when the news comes on I switch the channel"
"Too scarred by hope to hope, to experienced to experience, too close to dead is what i think"
"Peckinpah gives the final shoot-out in which they all die a kind of orgasmic rush that releases all of us from the cinematic or, more accurat
...more
Michael
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2018, recs
As with many others, I first encountered Rankine’s work through Citizen, which inspired me to read her other collections. I was pleased to find that Don’t Let Me Be Lonely anticipates many of the stylistic features that I found so compelling in Citizen, be it the collection’s fragmented structure, its evocative juxtaposition of text and image, or its refusal to answer the many questions that it raises.
Ellie
Jan 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I will write a longer review when I have some time but this book is, as is every other book I've read by Rankine, seriously compelling. The language is exquisite and the examination of life in America (in 2003) powerful. I can't wait to read this book again, along with every other book Rankine has written. ...more
Christine
Yes, everything about this is true too.
Megan O'Hara
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Anguish :)
jo
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
i wish this book had never ended.
Rebecca
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
!!!!!!!!!!!! 10/5 stars
Callum McAllister
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Always down for a ~150 page meditation on death. Much like Citizen but obviously of its time in that it talks more about television, the Iraq War, 9/11 etc.
Jesse Olivia
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
so beautiful, lyrical, heavy.
Rachel
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Really great construction and writing. It is also a great page-turner and the perfect balm for unquestioned joy. That is not to say that I didn't enjoy it and appreciate it, merely that reading it should probably be done with some sound self-judgement.

Rankine explores the commonplace attributes that form constellations within and around American lives. Expounded are broad themes of death and loneliness and specificity within depression, medication, television, race, and relationships. Though the
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Katie
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
this felt like a book that needs to be simultaneously read and experienced. its a meditation and a reflection and it almost feels like i read it too fast, didnt give myself enough time to take it in. i dont want to forget anything about this book. i dont want to call it haunting but it sticks with you in a certain ethereal way. all i can think about is what it means to be alive. theres no universal answer to what it means to be alive, and this book offers a perspective that needs to be heard and ...more
Bryant
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'd be happy reading a new prose poem by Claudia Rankine basically every day from here to forever. ...more
andy
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ms Claudia Rankine’s writing can really hold so much loss, tragedy, and loneliness while making space for that of the reader’s as well. this book was a thought partner to my hopelessness and despair. really brought me back again and again to a thought thread i’ve been working with for 7 months or so: is there such a thing as “natural” death/loss anymore in this country, has there ever been? if all death in the US is made artificial by nature, what are we to do with the resulting grief, rage, and ...more
Nicole
Dec 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mfa, poetry
"Because the foundations for loneliness begin in the dreamscapes you create. Their resemblance to reality reflects disappointment first."


A poignant examination of grief, loss, and the United States that emerged after 9/11. Utilizing prose poetry, essays, and cultural criticism, Rankine creates a form of intimacy based on the utterly familiar feeling of loneliness and how we, as individuals, wage a battle against it. One of the most (ironically) enjoyable reads of the semester, mostly because
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Hannah Swanwick
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm broken nowwwwwwwwwwwwww ...more
Derek Owusu
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An incredible book. Gave me permission to write my own.
Maya Smart
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely” is an evocative exploration of loss. The book of poetry and prose vignettes opens with author Claudia Rankine as a child witnessing her father looking flooded, leaking, breaking, broken. He was grieving his own mother’s death, and Rankine climbed the stairs as far from him as she could, distancing herself from his unfamiliar expression.

“He looked to me like someone understanding his aloneness,” she writes.

The rest of the book ranges over the territory of loneliness–mour
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Roz Ito
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, theory, memoir
Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely is in many ways a meditation on how we desperately need the Romantic poetic spirit now more than ever. The book is subtitled “An American Lyric,” and that is an apt description for it, the paradox of the lyric (traditionally private & individual) as spoken through the communal. I think Rankine is making an ethical call here that favors the communal lyric over the communal epic. This book was published in 2004, after 9/11 and the start of the wars in Iraq ...more
Jim Elkins
Mar 26, 2016 added it
Shelves: american
The rating is just for the use of images: I am researching the theory and history of books written with images. (writingwithimages.com)

"Citizen" raises different issues. (The review is elsewhere on this site.) In "Don't Let Me Be Lonely" the use of images seems mnemonic, evidentiary, decorative, offhanded, generic, unformatted, and therefore almost always uninteresting. In order:

1. Mnemonic: the many images of people Rankine describes, such as Abner Louima, Johnny Cochrane, Amadou Diallo (pp. 56
...more
Peter Rock
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Best title ever.

I may read it again right NOW. I felt like the first half was really solid, but the second half killed me. It really all came together and started to vibrate in the air and in my solar plexus.

Some passages that resonated with me:

“In a taxi speeding uptown on the West Side Highway, I let my thoughts drift below the surface of the Hudson until it finally occurs to me that feelings fill the gaps created by the indirectness of experience. Though the experience is social, thoughts car
...more
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Claudia Rankine is an American poet and playwright born in 1963 and raised in Kingston, Jamaica and New York City.

Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, including "Citizen: An American Lyric" and "Don’t Let Me Be Lonely"; two plays including "The White Card," which premiered in February 2018 (ArtsEmerson and American Repertory Theater) and will be published with Graywolf Press in 20
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