Get to Know Hanif Abdurraqib Through His Writing

We’re sharing our favorite pieces from the Columbus writer and newly named MacArthur “genius”

Brittany Moseley
Columbus Monthly
Author and poet Hanif Abdurraqib

When the MacArthur Foundation announced the 25 winners of its annual MacArthur Fellows Program, a familiar name was on the list: Hanif Abdurraqib. The poet/essayist/local Kate Bush fan is the third Columbus resident to receive the “genius grant.” Installation artist Ann Hamilton received the award in 1993, followed by late artist Aminah Robinson in 2004.

Abdurraqib released his first book of poetry, “The Crown Ain’t Worth Much,” in 2016. However, it was his second book, “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us,” that introduced Abdurraqib to a wider audience. Published in 2017 by Columbus-based Two Dollar Radio, the collection of essays earned stellar reviews from The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR and more for its lyrical and personal musings on punk rock, racism and Carly Rae Jepsen, among other things. From writing about a friend’s suicide through the lens of Fall Out Boy’s meteoric rise to an essay on Migos and Johnny Cash and the trouble with personas, Abdurraqib approached every story with thoughtfulness and respect.

Abdurraqib has since published three more books. In 2019 he released “Go Ahead in The Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest,” an ode to the influential hip-hop group, and a second poetry collection, “A Fortune For Your Disaster.” In March he released “A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance.”

Besides this impressive stream of books, Abdurraqib also regularly contributes pieces to a variety of titles (including this one). Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite stories by the prolific writer.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Columbus Sunsets (Columbus Monthly)

When It Happens Where You Live (Columbus Alive)

John Zidar’s Crew SC Family Ties (Columbus Alive)

Congressional Hopeful Morgan Harper on Reshaping the City That Shaped Her (Columbus Alive)

How Gillian Welch and David Rawlings Held Onto Optimism (The New York Times

The American Road Trip: Community (The New York Times)

Are the Black Keys Still Underdogs? (The New York Times Magazine)

The Resurrection of Aretha Franklin in 'Amazing Grace' (Pacific Standard)

The Vanishing Monuments of Columbus, Ohio (The New Yorker)

Just Some Kids From Northeast Ohio (Bleacher Report)