How Hanif Abdurraqib Cuts Through the Noise

Raqeb has also won praise from organizers in local activist groups, such as the Juvenile Justice Coalition and the Black Queer & Intersectional Collective, who say social awareness in his work is something that shows up in his life as well. They said he has been a regular at protests against police brutality, happy to speak at rallies or help raise money for groups he supports, and sometimes even cut his checks.

Also, his face is on a building now. There is a brightly colored mural on East Main Street, not far from his house, that seems to light up in the twilight.

“I’m visible enough for three times at this point,” Abdul Raqeb said. “At least for my own good, for what I can emotionally handle.”

Explain that when he says he likes to take care of his own affairs, he’s describing trying to conserve his mental and emotional energy, while keeping his focus narrow because he’s having trouble dipping his toe into something. Recently, for example, he realized he had never had s’mores before, and since he had a fire pit in front of his house (he removed the grass because he didn’t want to mow it), he decided it was time to give them a try. So search on Google for the best way to make s’mores. Three hours later, he looked up and it was dark, he said, still learning about the history of Graham’s biscuits.

“The best parts of my work sharpen and shape this impulse through some precise and clear phrasing of the narrative,” said Abdel Raqeeb. “But the part people don’t see is the s’mores situation.”

His critiques and articles are full of this, but also social commentary, memoirs, pop culture, and always poetry. Even the structure of his books sometimes takes a poetic slant, such as a chapter in “Little Devil in America” titled “Fear: A Crown,” in which the last line of each stanza echoes the first line of the next.

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