Visiting writer discusses music, shares personal stories through art


Jesten Richardson

Author Hanif Abdurraqib reads from his recently released book “Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest” during event in Marshall University’s A. E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series.

Giving members of the Marshall University community a taste of his work, a visiting writer read pieces from three of his books, including one yet to be released, Monday in the Memorial Student Center.

Hanif Abdurraqib, an essayist, poet and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio, who said he both composes and edits his work out loud, was the most recent writer to visit Marshall as part of the A. E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series.

During the event, Abdurraqibread from his recently published book “Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest,” a biography of the music group A Tribe Called Quest, his 2017 essay collection “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us” and his not-yet-released poetry collection “A Fortune For Your Disaster,” which he said is set to be published in November.

Following the reading, as well as a Q&A period with Abdurraqib, Cody Lumpkin, associate coordinator of the A. E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series, said he thinks Abdurraqib is an enthused and energetic writer who is exciting because of the way he combines and talks about different music genres and writes about popular culture, while making connections to his personal experiences and things happening in the culture at the time in a way that reads as effortless.

“I think what makes him exciting is the way that he combines and talks about popular music, hip hop, punk, emo, mainstream things,” Lumpkin said. “He has an essay about Fleetwood Mac and ‘Rumours.’ So, it’s a lot of pop culture things that he writes about, but he often connects it to personal experiences, things that are happening in the culture at the time, in a kind of way that seems very organic and doesn’t feel very forced.[1] ”

Lumpkin said Abdurraqib, who is a writer he really enjoys, was invited to Marshall at the suggestion of Kristen Lillvis, a professor in Marshall’s Department of English. Additionally, Lumpkin said the series has had African American writers come in as part of Black History Month over the past few years, which was a tradition he “definitely wanted to keep up.”

Also following the reading and Q&A period with the audience, Abdurraqibsaid he had a “beautiful” experience reading at Marshall, and thought the crowd was “beautiful and engaged” and had really thoughtful questions. He said he could tell there is a strong literary community at Marshall.

Though Abdurraqib said he did not have a goal coming into the reading, he said he was able to meet a goal he had for the end of the reading during the event.

“I oftentimes think the reading is just a vehicle for audience engagement afterwards, so my goal was to spark some thoughtful dialogue at the end of the reading, and I think that was a mission accomplished,” Abdurraqib said.

Following the reading and Q&A, Abdurraqibsigned copies of his books “Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest,” “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us” and “The Crown Ain’t Worth Much,” a collection of his poems published in 2016, which were being sold at the event by the Marshall University Bookstore.

The next event in the A. E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series is set for Thursday, April 11 at 7 p.m. in Smith Hall 154 and will include writers Elizabeth Allen, Juliet Escoria and Mesha Maren.

Jesten Richardson can be contacted at [email protected]