Virtual Shop Talk: Hanif Abdurraqib


In lieu of the in-person Shop Talk on Hanif Abdurraqib that was to be held on Tuesday, March 24 and his readings on March 25 (Phoenix) and March 26 (Tucson), please enjoy this overview of Abdurraqib’s work. Here you will find biographical information, links to poems and interviews, and writing prompts for you to explore.

Photo of poet & critic Hanif Abdurraqib
Photo of Hanif Abdurraqib


Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic who was born and raised in Colombus, OH. He has two collections of poetry, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much (2016) and A Fortune For Your Disaster (2019), and two collections of essays, They Can’t Kills Us Until They Kill Us (2017) and Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest (2019). Abdurraqib’s work deals heavily with race, religion, the Midwest, music, and pop culture.



The Summer A Tribe Called Quest Broke Up 

  all them black
                     boys in the ‘hood
                                               had they wallets
                                                                           unearthed in cities
                                                                                                            they ain’t never
                                                                                     seen before & they
                                                                                                  was all empty

Prompt: Write a “The Summer A….” poem that draws on the memories and details of a particular Summer (or any other season) in your own life. Feel free to play with form – what happens if you allow your poem to take up the entire page?


At The House Party Where We Found Out Whitney Houston Was Dead 

I am tucked in the corner, underneath a choir of arching floorboards 
wailing for sympathy from about four dozen relentless feet, and I am telling Jasmine 
that there is like, ONE song that everyone at this party knows all of the words to. 
I tell her that we were all born of the 80’s. All born of parents 
who watched the revolution shove itself into a too small suit at the turn of a decade that 
left them in homes with welcome mats that read: 
“Your hearts are the lost luggage at the airport of the next generation.”

Prompt: Write a poem inspired by a conversation you have had. Weave dialogue throughout.


The Ghost of Marvine Gaye Sits in The Ruins of The Old Livingston Flea Market and Considers Monogamy 

there is no corner         of midnight       where I ain’t     a god to somebody       & no one claps

at all of the tongue’s     miracles but      my daddy had   a pistol & knew how      to beckon a moan

from its door                with a bent       finger & boy      I’m sayin’ all the men    I come from

could hunt &                 we all got          our methods     mine is blood red          suits & sweat

in between                   piano keys        & a scream       that could rock loose     anyone’s chains

Prompt: The influence of music is clear in the rhythm and meter of Abdurraqib’s work. Pick a song that is meaningful to you and let it inspire a poem. Maybe you want to draw inspiration from the lyrics of the song or maybe you want to pay homage to the beat.


And What Good Will Your Vanity Be When The Rapture Comes 

says the man with a cart of empty bottles at the corner of church

and lincoln while I stare into my phone and I say

I know oh I know while trying to find the specific

 filter that will make the sun’s near-flawless descent look


the way I might describe it in a poem and the man

says the moment is already right in front of you and I

say I know but everyone I love is not here and I mean

here like on this street corner with me while I turn

Prompt: Play with punctuation. Can you write a poem with no punctuation? If you add in punctuation, how does that change the poem? How can you use things other than punctuation (i.e. line breaks, stanza format, italics or bold font) to emulate what punctuation does?



Cosmonauts Avenue 

Vida: Women in Literary Arts 



The Poetry Gods