By Joshua Brink, Features Contributor
Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet & essayist & the kind of writer I would have thought was impossible growing up as he breaks form & he speaks with such brutal honesty & a voice that I believe would have carried through Montante on Tuesday night even without the microphone & I could not take my eyes off him as he went through pages of material about sports I don't love & I was compelled to love as he dragged me off of the sidelines of a dunk competition to his dining room table, sitting across from his father & you would have had to be there & I wish I could take you there, go back & live through that experience again & watch your expression change over & over, from awe to joy & pain & back to awe as you hear not only an experience of being Black or Muslim in America but why he wants to live in spite of it all & where there is beauty & peace in age & in barbershops & gray hair & basketball courts whose rims were removed at the start of COVID & you would have had to be there & I know somewhere there is a recording of the event just as there are videos of him online & you can listen to his podcasts & you can read his books & you can try to replace that human connection with a screen & you will find a world that wants nothing more than to share itself with you & show you love & pain & the words for it that I still know so few of & you would have had to be there & I hope you will come next time & I hope you will find Hanif Abdurraqib as I've found him, daring & humble & maybe shorter than I imagined & waiting for you to ask him about not only writing but also about music & food & being Muslim & Buffalo & Ohio & the roads in-between.
I doubt that I will ever be as good as Hanif Abdurraqib, though in this short piece I attempted a form he uses frequently. The continuous paragraph is separated only by ampersands to convey the intensity and excitement of his kind of speech as a slam poet. He kindly visited our campus on Tuesday to read some of his spectacular writing and talk with students in Montante cultural center. He is the author of several books including two poetry collections, “The Crown Ain't Worth Much” and “A Fortune For Your Disaster” and several collections of essays with his most recent book “A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance,” which was released in March of 2021.
He writes heavily about his experiences as a Black Muslim from Ohio, growing up on the Punk Rock scene and how music pervades his life. He has run podcasts such as Object of Sound on Sonos radio in which he interviews artists and discusses life, music and performance. And according to his website, he is probably eating french fries.