Hanif Abdurraqib

Andy Cenci

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Hanif Abdurraqib

Past Event: Wednesday, October 23, 2019

At Town Hall Seattle—The Great Hall

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and music critic born and raised in Columbus, Ohio—he is the author of A Fortune For Your Disaster, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, and Go Ahead In the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest.

Abdurraqib is the author of the poetry collection The Crown Ain’t Worth Much (2016), a musical portrait of himself as a child growing up in a changing city of displacement and gentrification; the essay collection They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (2017), where he uses music—particularly live music—as a lens through which to view the world, and—most recently—Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest (2019), a New York Times bestseller and a “warm, immediate and intensely personal” homage to the seminal rap group (New York Times).

According to Abdurraqib, he began his career “writing a lot of bad music reviews,” which people would complain were “too poetic,” so he decided to start writing poems in 2012; somewhere along the way, he figured out how to bridge the gap between the two mediums, finding genre-bending language that works to articulate his passion. His essays and music criticism have gone on to be featured in publications like The Fader, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and the New York Times.

Abdurraqib’s first collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, released in 2017, was named a book of the year by Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and the Chicago Tribune. The essays revolve around musicians and other cultural figures like Serena Williams, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, and Nina Simone, which he expertly intertwines with passages about his family, childhood, friends, and neighborhood, finding moments of joy and grace in a country that is armed against Black people.

In one anecdote in They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Abdurraqib recounts the time he took up jazz as a thirteen-year-old, partly driven by Nina Simone’s influence, only to have his white jazz teacher tell him that his lips were “too big to play trumpet.” This in turn led Abdurraqib’s father to march into the teacher’s office with a collection of records with Black trumpet players on their covers, spreading them all out on the desk: Louis Armstrong, Freddie Hubbard, and Mercer Ellington.

As for Abdurraqib’s poetry, it often takes the shape of prose poems without line breaks and rhymes, in part because he thinks it makes them more accessible, touchable, and firm. Abdurraqib’s poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. He was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, as well as nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award; his poem “Hestia” won the 2014 Capital University Poetry Prize.

Abdurraqib will be publishing his second collection of poems, A Fortune for Your Disaster, in the fall of 2019, which deals in part with his mother’s death. Khadijah Queen praises: “A Fortune for Your Disaster proves that, if you pay attention, Black people have defined and still define themselves for themselves amid roses and dandelions, cardinals and violets, the blues of music and police uniforms, prayer and swagger, Kehinde Wiley paintings and too many funerals, the streets of bleak cities and the fraught histories of ‘a kill or be killed / nation.’”

Quenton Baker, who will be moderating the Q&A portion of Abdurraqib’s event, is a poet, educator, and Cave Canem fellow. His current focus is black interiority and the afterlife of slavery. His work has appeared in The Offing, Jubilat, Vinyl and elsewhere. He has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Southern Maine and is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. He is the recipient of the 2016 James W. Ray Venture Project Award and 2018 Arts Innovator Award from Artist Trust, and is a 2019 Robert Rauschenberg Artist in Residence. He is the author of This Glittering Republic (Willow Books, 2016).

Event Details

Town Hall Seattle—The Great Hall

1119 8th Ave
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Know Before You Go

Don't have your tickets?

Most tickets have been emailed, so be sure to check your inbox for an email from boxoffice@lectures.org. Call us at 206-621-2230 x10 if you can’t find them.

Have a question for the speaker?

Want to ask Abdurraqib something? Send your question to SAL’s Associate Director at rahoogs@lectures.org—it might be asked onstage!


Open Books will have copies of Abdurraqib’s work available for purchase at their table in the lobby.

The event will conclude with a book signing.

Transportation & Parking

Town Hall Seattle is centrally located at 1119 8th Ave, on the corner of 8th and Seneca. Their venue is served by frequent bus routes, is near access to light rail stations, and close to a number of parking options nearby. Please see their website for more details.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing losses, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. To make a request for open captioning, please contact us at boxoffice@lectures.org or 206.621.2230×10. Please note: for in-person events at Town Hall Seattle, we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure captioning services. 

Closed Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where captioning displays the words that are spoken or sung at the bottom of the video for online events. Captioning is available for all online events; click the “CC” button to view captions during the event.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Town Hall Seattle has a hearing loop system, so you can switch your T-coil hearing aid to telecoil to have the stage’s microphones transmitted directly to your hearing aids. To pick up a headset, check in with any Town Hall usher when you arrive.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals. To make a request for interpretation, please contact us at boxoffice@lectures.org or 206.621.2230×10, or select “Sign Language Interpretation” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process and we will contact you to confirm details. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at Town Hall Seattle, which is fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Town Hall Seattle recommends that visitors use the 8th Avenue Entrance for events in the Great Hall, and elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. The venue has all-gender, ADA-accessible restrooms on the lobby and Forum level. To reserve seating for a specific mobility concern, please contact us at boxoffice@lectures.org or 206.621.2230×10, or select “Wheelchair Accessible or Alternative Seating Options” during ticket checkout, and we will contact you to confirm details. For more details on accessibility features at Town Hall, click here.

Guide and service dogs are welcome.

All-gender restrooms are available.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at boxoffice@lectures.org, or Tuesday-Friday, from 12 noon–5 p.m., at 206.621.2230×10.

For more accessibility information, please head to lectures.org/accessibility. If you would like to make accessibility arrangements you do not see listed here, please contact our box office or select “Other Accommodations” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process, and we will contact you to confirm details.