The poetics of opacity in Renee Gladman's Ravicka series
The racialization — and weaponization — of “sociology,” “social,” and “social science” as descriptors for poetry by people of color is particularly crude; at its foundation it suggests that their/our poems are merely collections of empirical observations, that they are self-referential expressions of social particularity largely devoid of stylistic elements such as rhythm, metaphor, etc. Stripped of poetic markers the poems cease to be poems; they become a sort of personal testimony, autoethnographies, that elicit from critics further reductive descriptors such as “cultural” and “identitarian.”
Renee Gladman’s Ravicka series almost didn’t get published. Dalkey Archive Press planned to publish the first two installations, Event Factory and The Ravickians, but then didn’t. Danielle Dutton, a consultant for Dalkey, couldn’t understand why not.