Reading Hanif Abdurraqib’s latest poetry collection, A Fortune for Your Disaster, almost feels like staying up all night with someone you’ve just met, talking about the world in a way that is thrilling and vulnerable — one of those long soul-searching talks that just clicks with exactly how you need to be thinking about things in that moment. And like those late-night conversations, this is a book that is deceptively simple, unusually profound, and over before you realize how much it’s changed you. (Luckily, with a book, you can go back and read it again.)
Abdurraqib is a poet who pays attention to the world in a very intense and particular way, such that a poem about admitting that Michael Jordan pushed off just before burying a game-winning, championship-clinching jump shot is also a poem about a mother’s death, and about love and distance. He’s also a writer who not only published a terrific poetry collection this year — a feat in itself — but also published an equally terrific book that defies easy categorization. Go Ahead in the Rain: Note on A Tribe Called Quest is, as its cover announces, “a love letter to a group, a sound, and an era.” It was also longlisted for the National Book Award for nonfiction. All of this to say: Hanif Abdurraqib has skills.
Nashville will get the chance to see those skills on display; he will be appearing at the Southern Festival of Books on Friday, October 11 at 3pm in the Nashville Public Library Special Collections Room. For a complete festival schedule, click here. In the meantime, get to know Hanif Abdurraqib a little better by reading his responses to our Authors in Real Life questionnaire.
I’ve been listening to: JPEGMAFIA, black midi, Injury Reserve, Daniel Johnston, EXES, Carried By 6.
I love to watch: Lately I’ve been watching Schitt’s Creek — I don’t often have a lot of time to watch television, and so I’m usually a bit late to shows. It can be really wonderful, to immerse myself into a show that so many people have been pushing me towards.
Something I saw online that made me laugh, cry, or think: I recently saw this video of a cat defending its dog friend against another cat. The dog got too curious, as we all do sometimes. It moved too aggressively into the other cat’s space and the cat swiped at its nose. And just like that, the cat that was idle leapt to the dog’s defense. It didn’t make me laugh, or cry … and it certainly didn’t make me think too much. But I did appreciate seeing it and considering what affections might cause me to leap into the fray in such a defense.
Best meal I’ve had in the past month: I don’t have as good of a memory for food as I do for everything else, sadly. I do recall recently having several flight cancellations and settling into some near-airport hotel where everyone else was also wallowing in their inability to go to wherever they had planned to be. And I ordered a large piece of chocolate cake. It was near midnight, and that’s not something I’d usually eat right before falling asleep, but it was so satisfying in the moment.
A creator who’s doing something I admire or envy: There are far too many to list, but I absolutely love the new Carmen Giménez Smith book. It seems so impossible — I can’t imagine how a person wrote that.
A book I recently recommended to someone else: Everything Saidiya Hartman has ever written.
The last event I bought tickets to was: Well just today, moments before typing these answers, I purchased tickets to a Robyn concert. She’s coming to Columbus, and even though I don’t really like going to concerts anymore, I sometimes get the tickets so that I feel forced to go at least for a little bit.
Most meaningful recent travel destination: Every time I get to come back home to Columbus, Ohio.
I wish I knew more about: Everything.
My favorite thing about bookstores: I love the way a bookstore can be a mirror for the community it serves.
The Southern Festival of Books
What: Talks and book signings featuring 200 of the nation’s foremost writers, plus lots of fun exhibitor booths, food trucks, and performances for all ages
When: Friday, October 11, through Sunday, October 13, 2019
Where: In and about the Nashville Public Library and War Memorial Plaza
For information on schedule, location, parking, and more, click here, or download the festival app.