The sensation...is of a strong current muscling its way through a landscape ... A Fortune for Your Disaster, bears many of the hallmarks of [Abdurraquib's first collection]: a tight focus on the people in his immediate vicinity, a tendency to let the lines spool out in search of epiphany or closure, a nascent tendency toward more explicit form; but in this new one, we see a poet more strongly in control of his gifts, and scrutinizing some of the skills and proclivities that got him to where he is. Though Abdurraqib is a romantic...this collection is ultimately skeptical, wondering what kind of trouble — as well as what kind of ecstasy — romance and intimacy, writ large, can get one into ... Overall, Abdurraqib shows a stupendous amount of control with his line breaks. He also experiments much more with stanzaic and visual variety, which counters the headlong emotional pitch of the poems, giving the reader sharply delineated spaces to pause and contemplate the mechanics of the trick we’re witnessing ... There’s no doubt that Abdurraqib has a lot to be serious about, but it’s also refreshing to see the majestic illusionist draw the audience in with a little bit of close-up magic. He reminds us, with self-deprecating irony, that trust is important to both poetry and magic, and that if this trust is broken, it should be to dazzle, not to harm.
The fast-rising Ohio music journalist’s second book of poems imports characters from, and jokes about, pop, rap, rock and soul...to animate his corrosively serious, hard-to-forget, lines about love, sex, hypocrisy, self-discovery, power, grief and violence ... Very short and very long lines resound equally well in Abdurraqib’s expert hands: In the course of this volume — the kind to which readers return and return — he downshifts from scary memories into widely useful syncopated advice.
...meaning shimmers oddly; a thing seen through roiling water. Lines imitate the title of the book, designed to allow for and often demand a multiplicity of interpretations ... A certain counter-intuitive feeling emerges when trying to make any assertion about a book that does so good a job masking, or multiplying, its author’s intent. Everything that might otherwise appear certain is pushed into a place of seeming ... Impermanence comes alive most viscerally in those poems that discuss love, or its promise—there is a connection here between being Black in America and being in a state of unrequited love ... This was a difficult review to write. Fortune is a heady collection, rife with possibility and a focus that is unafraid to shift, then shift again. The names of the poems are long, their forms varied. There are sweeping prose poems and poems that live mostly in blank space. It’s excellent and time-consuming. It is never simple or easy. If the central question of this book is, 'How Can Black People Write About Flowers At A Time Like This,' then there may be an answer in this approach. Never simply. Never easily.
Hanif Abdurraqib...over and over again...takes an ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary ... There’s so much in this book to talk about ... There are thirteen poems in this collection all titled 'How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This' which probably deserve their own essay; there are poems in the voices of the ghost of Marvin Gaye; there are poems about divorce and the death of a parent and the many and various ways blood is spilled in this life.
...a powerful, resonant poetry collection ... The author threads together the themes of loss, forgiveness, heartbreak, and racial tension through lyrical meditations, writing and titling 13 poems 'How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This' ... these had to be my favorite from his book showcasing the most feeling ... Abdurraquib’s poems soars over three acts, and in each one he is aggressively more enticing. His application of different poetry forms brings power, empathy, and heart through the page ... a beautiful masterpiece of heart, of poetic language, of resilience, and of music ... One can’t prepare for the pain they experience, but Abdurraquib’s poetry opens the heart and allows it to heal with real, uncensored writing.
...when an author’s unmitigated brilliance shows up on every page, it’s tempting to skip a description and just say, Read this! Such is the case with this breathlessly powerful, deceptively breezy book of poetry ... With the swagger of a boxer and the restraint of a scholar, Abdurraqib invokes pop culture and Black history with equal ease, alternating stream-of-consciousness prose poems with deeply introspective lamentations ... a fatal specter haunts the book, which is perhaps what gives every verse such urgency. Undoubtedly, this is the latest entry in what promises to be a long and fruitful career.
This resonant second collection from cultural critic, essayist, and poet Abdurraqib grapples with physical and emotional acts of violence and their political context. Woven throughout these lyrical meditations on racial tension, heartbreak, friendship, and pop culture, 13 poems titled 'How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This' display Abdurraqib’s technical dexterity ... while creating a sense of conditions both inescapable and irresolvable ... these speakers’ losses may suggest that 'true wealth/ is the ability to embrace forgetting,' yet such wry commentary reveals its own hard-won, defiant resilience.