• Elina Arbo


When reminiscing, we often tend to think of soft and blissful memories. However, sometimes our flashbacks can be a little more intense. Our past can be caught in a storm of emotions as we recall it. The poet Hanif Abdurraqib in The Crown Ain’t Worth Much does exactly that in so many instances. His words are extremely powerful as he questions the norm and pushes boundaries in multiple ways.

Abdurraqib transports his audience to parts of their youth they may have forgotten about. For me, attending concerts made up the best parts of my teenage years. The first lines are extremely exciting; I felt like I was transported to my very first mosh pit alongside the poet. Directly after however, the author highlights the extreme divisiveness of the space, highlighting the anti-Blackness and queerphobia that occurs in such scenes, which I think is still very apparent given the composition of these concerts. The poet takes us through various twists and turns, constantly keeping his audience on their toes.

The vibrancy of his poetry is immense as the heat and humidity of the summer seep from the pages onto your skin. Abdurraqib will sometimes write poems that are split by slashes, creating abrupt breaks and a choppiness that impacts how one reads his work. The run-on sentences allow Abdurraqib’s thoughts to clash with one another. The lack of uniform and structure allows the author to paint such vivid scenes so clearly.

His talent is immense. He can create feelings of nostalgia while drawing on the divisiveness that permeates so many of his spaces. In many instances, the poet is also bone-chilling. There are so many points in the book where I felt his descriptions impact me tremendously. For instance, in the poem “Ode to Kanye West in Two Parts, Ending in a Chain of Mothers Rising from the River” he writes the following: “When I say I wanted the boy who cursed my dead mother’s name to become a ghost, I mean I wanted the bones of him to rattle on his father’s nightstand.” In these lines, there is an emotional fervor: jolts that the poet sends coursing through you. These values accompanied by vivid descriptions allow the reader to understand how strong his feelings are.

Again and again, the poet takes us through rollercoasters of thoughts and emotions throughout the book. He shares moments with us that are intimate. Moments we probably found ourselves in as well. The poem, “College Avenue, Halloween, 2002” does just that. Abdurraqib writes: “I promise the girl on the couch I will call her and maybe I will after all because I am becoming more and more like my father every day, the way we both swing into the darkness like it is our birthright, the way we both crave the moon and the breeze dancing…” So many of us can think of moments like that, where we meet someone at a party, someone who we talk to and immediately click with. Abdurraqib ties everything together so well by connecting his own personality to that of his father’s. That’s something I found particularly special about his writing. So many times I find myself comparing my own behaviors to the people around me, especially that of family members.

I think Abdurraqib's writing is special for a number of reasons. I am fond of the unstructured nature of his poetry because, for many of us, it’s an accurate reflection of the world around us. He is intimate and extremely honest with his audience, and his writing is very raw and detailed. I can't begin to describe how phenomenal his work is nor can I transport readers to where he is— you just have to see for yourself!

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