The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference Faculty 2019 Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib

Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference Faculty 2019

About Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first collection of poems The Crown Ain't Worth Much was released by Button Poetry in 2016, and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us was released to critical acclaim in November 2017 by Two Dollar Radio. His next projects are Go Ahead In The Rain, a book on A Tribe Called Quest due out in 2019 by University of Texas Press, and They Don't Dance No Mo', due out from Random House in 2020.

View Conference Sessions with this Faculty

Hip-hop and Poetry: A Conversation on Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Representation
Hanif Abdurraqib, Douglas Manuel

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Conversation, Panel
Genre: African American, Poetry

Music and other forms of art have impacted poetry through historical, social and cultural intersections. In this intimate discussion between poet, essayist, and cultural critic, Hanif Abdurraqib, and poet and editor, Douglas Manuel, the authors will explore how hip-hop sensibilities and aesthetics have influenced contemporary poetry, and how both art forms continue to shape and reshape the futures of social, racial, and gender representation.

Poet as Bandleader
Hanif Abdurraqib

Friday, February 22, 2019, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.
Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Poetry

Using sound and explorations of sound to better define the shapes of our poems. For example, what can the use of sampling tell a writer about the different modes their familiar language can be in? Or, what can percussive sounds tell a writer about their word selections, and how the language they select fills out the poem, and gives it a wave of sonic delights. 

Writing Away from a Good/Evil Binary
Hanif Abdurraqib

Thursday, February 21, 2019, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Location: Piper Writers House, 450 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281
Type: Advanced Workshop, Generative Workshop, Workshop
Genre: Poetry

We too often rely on a “good/bad” binary to shape our characters and considerations in our stories. How do our complexities as human beings find their way to the page? In this generative workshop, join poet, essayist, and cultural critic, Hanif Abdurraqib, on an exploration on empathy and the dynamics of character in popular culture. The group will use an empathy tree in which participants figure out which characters in popular culture they find empathetic or non-empathetic.

More About Hanif Abdurraqib

Abdurraqib, Hanif. "All of the Ways I've Kept Myself Alive." Button Poetry, May 7, 2017. See also "At My First Punk Rock Show Ever," "And What Good Will Your Vanity Be When the Rapture Comes," "When I Say That Loving Me Is Kind of Like Being a Chicago Bulls Fan" and so many other videos.

I did for a moment look upon that which had been dipped in a thick batter and then made golden brown in the restless oil, and I instead chose something that grew out of the earth as my mother would have me do. I felt the clatter of my heart's unhinging on the treadmill before I even completed my first mile, and yet I continued, until I was both gasping and glowing, letting the Aretha spill elegant out of the headphones around my neck and onto the unsuspecting street. I felt my aching thighs singing and I sang back. 

---. "Carly Rae Jepsen and the Kingdom of Desire." MTV News, June 21, 2017. You can also view Hanif's complete series of articles for MTV News here. 

Entering Canada at the New York/Ontario border, near the edge of Buffalo, a black border guard asks me if I’m good. It’s the first question he asks after taking my passport from me — not why I’m crossing into Canada, or where I’m coming from. At first I wonder if a fairly routine five-hour drive has taken that much of a toll on me before remembering that I am, in fact, not good. After the verdict in Philando Castile’s murder came down the night before, acquitting police officer Jeronimo Yanez on all charges, I didn’t sleep much.

---. "How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This." Poem-a-day,, July 4, 2018.

dear reader, with our heels digging into the good
mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something
about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself
but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown
& lord knows I have been called by what I look like
more than I have been called by what I actually am &
I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this

Duplan, Anaïs. "Whose America? A Conversation with Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib on poetry after Trump." Ploughshares, November 27, 2016. 

In the two weeks since Donald Trump’s election, people from around the country, and from all walks of life, have been debating each other online. How exactly did Trump get elected? Everyone’s got a theory. Those who caught Tom Hanks in the role of a Trump supporter on Saturday Night Live’s rendition of “Black Jeopardy” caught, if not exactly a theory on Trump’s election, a series of surprisingly acute insights into the overlapping interests of seemingly opposed demographics of the national voting body: Trump supporters and black people.

Stosuy, Brandon. "Hanif Abdurraqib on the writer as archivist." The Creative Independent, December 19, 2017. See also David Breithaupts's interview with Hanif Abdurraqib in the Los Angeles Review of Books or Hanif's podcast with the Los Angeles Review of Books

I imagine the trick is hitching your pop culture reference to something timeless. I’m not writing to Ric Flair, for example, as much as I’m writing through Ric Flair to talk about an idea of invincibility and immortality and fear. I’m using the pop culture. The real work for readers is to read past the thing they think they’re reading. To see that piece on, say, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, and see that it is about them, but also about black people showing each other affection in public. And how that is a survival tactic. I’m super interested in timelessness, because I will always be writing toward pop culture and the pop culture landscape shifts immensely. 

Tosiello, Pete. "Hanif Abdurraqib's vital meditation on music—and living and dying in America." The Washington Post, December 12, 2017. 

Ice Cube's "Death Certificate," a sparkplug of a rap album released six months before the 1992 Los Angeles riots, is segmented into halves: Side A titled "The Death Side" and Side B "The Life Side." Visceral guides to early-'90s urban unrest, both sides are striking not so much in their contrast as for their likeness. As an authoritative treatise on the delicacy of black lives during a period defined by inequality and protest, the album is a touchstone for "They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us," a breathtaking collection of largely music-focused essays by Hanif Abdurraqib.