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Hanif Abdurraquib’s powerful collection of poems explores the unending heartbreak of being black in America and how to find strength and self-actualization. Landscaped by graves, mirrors, and music these poems take the personal grief of being barked at by dogs and frames and re-frames those aggressions into explorations on how our nation’s history and ceaseless failures cannot stamp our indelible humanity. The series of poems titled “How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This” are defiant manifestos that will be talked about for years to come.
I'm not a frequent reader of poetry, but, after hearing Hanif read to a rapt audience of 400+ at a bookseller conference a couple of years ago, I knew I would appreciate the audio version of virtually anything he wrote. This book is stellar on paper as well as in audio form (found at Libro.fm/avidbookshop).
In his much-anticipated follow-up to The Crown Ain't Worth Much, poet, essayist, biographer, and music critic Hanif Abdurraqib has written a book of poems about how one rebuilds oneself after a heartbreak, the kind that renders them a different version of themselves than the one they knew. It's a book about a mother's death, and admitting that Michael Jordan pushed off, about forgiveness, and how none of the author's black friends wanted to listen to "Don't Stop Believin'." It's about wrestling with histories, personal and shared. Abdurraqib uses touchstones from the world outside-from Marvin Gaye to Nikola Tesla to his neighbor's dogs-to create a mirror, inside of which every angle presents a new possibility.