How Hanif Abdurraqib cuts the noise


Abdurraqib has also earned praise from organizers of local activist groups, like the Juvenile Justice Coalition and Black Queer & Intersectional Collective, who say that social awareness in his work is something that also appears in his life. He has been a regular at protests against police brutality, they said, and is happy to speak at rallies or help raise funds for the groups he supports, sometimes cutting his own checks.

In addition, his face is now on a building. There is a brightly colored mural on East Main Street not far from his house that appears to glow at dusk.

“I am quite visible for three lifetimes at this point,” Abdurraqib said. “At least for my own good, for what I can handle emotionally.”

When he says he enjoys going about his own business, he explained, he describes an effort to preserve his mental and emotional energy, keeping his focus as he struggles to stick a toe into something. . Recently, for example, he realized that he had never had s’mores, and since he has a fireplace in front of his house (he had the grass removed because he didn’t want to mow it). ), he decided it was time to give them a try. So he went Google to find the best way to make s’mores. Three hours later he looked up and it was dark, he said, and he was still learning the history of the graham cracker.

“The best parts of my work sharpen that impulse and put it through a narrative articulation that is hopefully clear and nuanced,” said Abdurraqib. “But the part that people don’t see is the s’mores situation.”

His reviews and essays are imbued with it, but also with social commentaries, memories, pop culture and always poetry. Even the structure of his books sometimes takes on a poetic feel, like a chapter in “A Little Devil In America” ​​called “Fear: A Crown”, where the last line of each stanza echoes the first line of the next.


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