professor
Claudia Rankine

Nov 2001

Taking this class as a freshman (and, as such, as the anomaly in the class) was probably one of the best introductions to Columbia i could have received: it's relaxed, small, and very geared toward learning about modern poetry and how different varieties of it fit into the literary continuum. As for the professor, she knows an incredible amount about poetry and poetics and makes the material completely interesting. She's one of those professors who're obviously in tune with the students. She's not just an encyclopedia standing at the head of the classroom ranting obliviously about obscure biographical facts about poets, but rather she's genuinely interested in the poetry and what you have to say about it (and, of course, she's got her own wit & wisdom to toss into the discussions). Classes are conducted in a roundtable discussion sort of setting, alternating regularly between the standard information-inundation / note-taking and discussions / readings of poems and essays, and Claudia (as an established poet herself) has plenty of amusing anecdotes about various poets studied in the class. Also, her perceptiveness regarding students' interests is impressive: judging only by my input in class and my five-page midterm paper, Claudia was able to suggest to me a long list of poets in whose work i might be interested - and indeed i was interested in them. An entirely worthwhile woman to learn from or just talk to, and an entirely worthwhile class to take. If you have even the slightest interest in modern poetry, this class is a necessity: it could send you deep into the stacks of butler, where you would end up leafing through the entire ouevres of obscure poets. And if not, you'd still be learning a hell of a lot just by being in this woman's class.

Jan 2000

Claudia is the best. Ever. Aside from the fact that she is as talented and renowned as the poets she teaches about, she is an amazing professor. She radiates cool. At the same time, she brings cookies and donuts to class for no apparent reason except that she thought we might be hungry. Awesome. She basically taught me how to read poetry...how to dig up and comprehend every subtextual level of each poem we dealt with. The material was fantastic, and the workload pretty minimal. You read the assignments because you want to. Her only negative quality is that she is a really really slow grader. However, she's also a pretty easy grader. I mean, relatively speaking. Her philosophy is that she'll give you the highest grade she can in good conscience. Also very easy to meet with her, very approachable. If you are considering taking any sort of modern poetry class, take hers. You'll regret it if you don't.