Introductions: Hanif Abdurraqib
November 5, 2019
On October 23 at Town Hall Seattle, Hanif Abdurraqib read from his latest collection, A Fortune For Your Disaster, and gave us all excellent writing-slash-life advice. SAL Associate Director Rebecca Hoogs introduced Hanif for this event, which was part of our 2019/20 Hinge Series.
By Rebecca Hoogs, SAL Associate Director
We are honored to be the Seattle stop for Hanif Abdurraqib as he celebrates, and we celebrate with him, the publication of his second full-length collection of poetry, A Fortune for Your Disaster. Abdurraqib has been described as a music journalist, an essayist, a cultural commentator, a memoirist, and a poet. He came to poetry, he has said, when he was having trouble placing his music criticism because it was “too poetic.” So as he says, “I thought if I was going to be criticized for using poetic language, I should find some poetry to dive into.”
What a model for all of us: to hear a criticism and then just go get really, really good at it. That’s some next level transcendence slash revenge! And I wonder if his deep dive into poetry made his prose writing even stronger, because his two prose collections—ostensibly music criticism, but really, so much more—They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us and Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest, are both New York Times bestsellers. Go Ahead was, in fact, one of ten books long-listed for a National Book Award in non-fiction this fall and will be, I predict, on many best-of lists for this year, as They Can’t Kill Us was in its year.
Take that, music editors. This is what we want. This. Good writing. Forget genre and its rules, its binaries and limitations. We want what Hanif Abdurraqib does. We want his unique blend of memory, observation, metaphor, lyrical density, gentle humor, power ballad sadness. We will go wherever he goes, listening to whatever he’s listening to. We will walk with him, wander. We can be expansive. We can learn to love Carly Rae Jepsen! Whether its about music or heartbreak or death or god or dogs or the ghost of Marvin Gaye or the question which he repeats as a title 15 times in the new collection: “how can black people write about flowers in a time like this?” we are here for the writing of Hanif Abdurraqib.
When asked recently in an interview about his “preferred genre,” he responded, “I think my preferred genre now is whatever one gets me away from answers and brings me closer to newer, better questions that I can run into the world with.” The only question for me, right now, is will you join me in welcoming to the stage Hanif Abdurraqib?