IF YOU CARE ABOUT BALLET from the second half of the twentieth century, one of your wished-for fly-on-the-wall moments is probably a late rehearsal, back in 1957, for a new piece by George Balanchine. It’s called Agon. Music by Igor Stravinsky. Today, Stravinsky himself is stopping by to see a run-through. In dark glasses, a vest, and a tie, he sits with the choreographer at the mirrored front of the room. The dancers begin. Stravinsky beats time. Balanchine snaps his fingers. At one point, the pair consult with the rehearsal pianist, and a corps member rests on the floor in front of them.
Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2014. 160 pages.
THE SPLIT-SCREEN IMAGE from November 24, 2014, already seems iconic. On one side, the president speaks from the White House about law and restraint and progress. On the other, smoke rises from the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, as armed police officers face protesters with their hands up. When I saw that image, I turned off the news feed and began to reread Claudia Rankine’s new volume of poetry, Citizen: An American Lyric. I kept reading in the days following, when the failure to indict a police officer