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the crown ain't worth much
by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib
124 pages ~ 55 poems
ISBN-13: 978-1943735044
ISBN-10: 1943735042
Price; $16.00
Publisher: Button Poetry
Purchase at:


Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib's THE CROWN AIN'T WORTH MUCH leaves me
contemplating the meanings of soul: communal soul (peep the breadth of cultural
shout outs), rhythmic soul (peep the breadth of sound and syntax), and spiritual
soul (peep the breadthf compassion). As titles like "Ode to Drake, Ending with
"Blood in a Field" and "At the House Party Where We Found Out Whitney
Houston Was Dead" suggest, Willis-Abdurraqib bridges the bravado and bling
of praise with the blood and tears of elegy.The soul of this magnificent book is
ddynamic, distinguished, and when called for,down and dirty. What a fresh, remark-
able debut.
‐Terrance Hayes, National Book Award winner


Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio.
He is the editor of Again I Wait For This To Pull Apart, an anthology of poems relating
to music, released by Freezeray Press in 2015. His poetry has been published in Muzzle,
Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism have
been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, and The New York Times, and he is currently a
columnist at MTV News. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and his poem
"Hestia" won the 2014 Capital University poetry prize. He is a Callaloo Creative Writing
Fellow, an interviewer at Union Station Magazine, and a poetry editor at Muzzle Magazine


by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

Sprawling river / peeling off the chest / a wet slap / endless
summer / not quite drenched to the bone / yet still a burden/
how it sits heavy on the tongue / after being spoken / leaving the
mouth / a humid storm / becoming the definition of itself / inside
you / heaviness in the prison of your chest / I am trying to pull
my shirt over my head / after a full-court game / in June / and I
am thinking of how everyone I love / was once taken from the
inside of another person / moist with what carried them / into the
world / isn't that worth the smallest praise / I am closing my eyes
/ as the shirts cotton clings to my back / and I am thinking that all
wetness must have teeth / especially the wetness that grows from
within / and spills out / or / chews its way through the skin / and
falls onto another's skin / the night Michael Jackson died /
everyone black / in Ohio / danced in the basement / until the walls
were moist / until it rained indoors / and we saw our heroes /
resurrected in the reflection / of our own drowning / I say moist /
and do not first think about two naked bodies / the sound their
skin might make / when they awkwardly press into each other /
underneath a hungry sun / in the apartment with a broken air
conditioner / I say moist / and first think of / the eager and
swallowing mud /the bullet that burrowed into Sean's chest / on
Livingston Avenue / the country of dark red / that grew across his
white tee / while his mother held / he's paling face / I say moist / as
in / "my homie's blood left the corner of my block moist" / or / his mama had
/ her hands moist with what once kept her baby alive
/ or / my eyes were moist
when I heard the o.g. say
/ "niggas gonna die every day" / and then he
wiped blood off his shoe / and it felt like summer for ten years


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