Hanif Abdurraqib


Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism have been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was released in June 2016 from Button Poetry. It was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. With Big Lucks, he released a limited edition chapbook, Vintage Sadness, in summer 2017 (you cannot get it anymore and he is very sorry.) His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in winter 2017 by Two Dollar Radio and was named a book of the year by Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. He released Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest with University of Texas press in February 2019. The book became a New York Times Bestseller, was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. His second collection of poems, A Fortune For Your Disaster, was released in 2019 by Tin House, and won the 2020 Lenore Marshall Prize. In 2021, he will release the book A Little Devil In America with Random House. He is a graduate of Beechcroft High School. Source

There is a Street Named After Martin Luther King Jr. in Every City

For Joe Bart

especially the ones where blood sprints / from a black chest to color the earth / a darkened brown / the color of a black mother’s skin / if she knew what it was to be alive / in the old south / if she knew what it was / to rock on the porch in the southern heat / until her babies made it home for dinner / if she made her skin a bed / for all of the sun’s eager children / until her own walked through a door / and were fed / until the boys could be made a meal / and not made into a meal / for the tall grass / or the smoldering concrete / what is it to have a city’s mouth water / for what you cannot take off / and lay at its feet? / what is it to wear a feast / under the shirt passed down / from your dead brother? / the frenzied horizon swallowed another one / somewhere in the south / last night / it is summer again / after all / are you less / of a ghost / if you die on a street / named for a man who / they will say / could have saved you? / a man who would have carried you / on his back / to the promised land / where all of the black people are safe / from death / where no one black has a mouth / is what I mean to say / where no one can look up and ask where the sun went / while watching the black skin peel back from their hands / until their bodies become something more tolerable / that the sky does not hunger for / and isn’t this what every black mother wants? / a table full of children / who are still alive / who do not speak ill / who do not speak / who do not move / who will never be carried to a burial / by the bullet / are you less of a ghost if you die on a street / that was built by your ancestors / before it was named for your savior? / who / like all saviors / did not die just one death / who bleeds a little more each time his name is used / to throw water on another fire / who has the bullet lifted out of his spine / so the hands can fit in his hollow back / and he can speak again / for you who cannot / all of you lost and wandering into the violence / that is your birthright / in America / to arrive / and leave a street the color of your mama’s good brown skin / upon your exit / you are maybe not a ghost at all / if we can still take a knife to your tongue / and squeeze out only the good gospel / wrap one hundred dead bodies in it / until there is only silence / you are maybe not a ghost / if every bloody street / bears your undead name / if we are told you are more alive / than everyone living on it /  if you did not bleed out / on a hotel balcony / during a spring night / in Memphis / after telling the choir to play / Precious Lord, Take My Hand / real pretty / so that the boys could sing / Precious Lord, linger near / when my light is almost gone / in their suits / ironed sharp for the grave /so that the mothers would know / summer was on its way.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Death & Loss

Poems of Place

Racial Injustice

Violence & War

Literary Devices:


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences

Bleeding Title

when the title of a poem acts as the first line


written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure


exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered