Tabs open on your screen right now:
I have about eighteen tabs open in a few different windows right now. I have a friend who only commits herself to having three tabs open at a time. “If I have any more than that, I’m not doing my most efficient work,” she says. I feel like I’m the opposite. I’m often easily seduced by the desire for distraction, even if not by the act of distraction itself. I’ve always got at least YouTube and Twitter open at all times. I’m working, at the moment, on a long essay about the mid-2000s era of pop-punk, and I’m writing a section about the band Hellogoodbye, so I’ve got scattered tabs with old interviews of theirs, videos of their old live shows, odd setlists from the era. I’m a Several Tabs Open writer, because I’m constantly fact-checking myself. I deal so much in nostalgia, which makes everything feel more romantic than it actually might have been. I always need to check everything I can in relation to my memories. was this show really as magical as I remember it being, or was I just in love with the night? My several open tabs keep me honest. I also currently have a tab open that is showing me several sorbet options that I can have delivered to my home if I choose to, and I am thinking of choosing to.
If you had to brag about yourself:
I would like to think that I at least attempt compassion as much as I can, even if I fail from time to time. I suppose that’s not much of a brag. I have a great sneaker collection. Parents generally like me because I’m genuinely fascinated by emotional histories. I have been told, exactly twice, that I am a good kisser, though I suppose I have no way of measuring that for myself. I suppose those two people could have been lying. But I’m also not very good at hugging, and surely I’ve got to have something going for me on the “hugging and kissing” scorecard. As if we are all entitled to such things. I think I can write some pretty ok stuff when I’m dialed in and the songs rattling in the background are doing their jobs and I’m thinking intimately about how fleeting everything is. In the right light, I look ok in pictures.
Your writer crush:
I’m so genuinely in love with my direct peers. Don’t get me wrong, I have my heroes. Terrance Hayes is my hero. Rita Dove is my hero. Josephine Baker, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker are my heroes. Lester Bangs and Jessica Hopper are my heroes. But my heart really hums its best tune when I’m thinking about this vast cohort of writers that I feel very adjacent to and always in conversation with. My collective partner and artistic sibling Eve Ewing, of course. Nate Marshall, José Olivarez, Safia Elhillo, Angel Nafis, Morgan Parker, Doreen St. Felix, Danez Smith, Aziza Barnes, Nabila Lovelace, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Jayson Smith, Jeremy Clark, Cortney Charleston. Dare I continue? Sam Sax, Clint Smith, Sarah Kay, Paul Tran, Desiree Bailey, Jerriod Avant, Franny Choi. I’m fine to call it a crush, sure. But I’m talking kin, really. I feel tethered to all of these people, and more. I don’t take to the craft without taking in what they’ve offered me, and continue to offer me, as a path.
“I wear pajamas to Ruth’s Chris” – 2 Chainz
Any place in the world:
I’m learning to love breakfast, because it is an embrace I have neglected for far too long. The timing of this is good, because I’ve recently began enjoying various fruit. I’m trying to do less of eating pastries at noon. I like a good fruit salad in the morning, except for I’ve been having some issues with melon. I don’t want to ignite controversy in this corner of the internet, but I’d prefer it if melon didn’t exist in my fruit salads, perhaps not at all. In my head, pancakes are a good idea, but then when they arrive, I am often overwhelmed and not as excited by them. I get that this is more a reflection of my general flightiness, and not a reflection on pancakes in general. I want to like pancakes, but our timing is never right. One day, hopefully soon.
Favorite online places right now:
Wherever my friends have poems living is usually my favorite place on the internet. I’m also really into Etsy because I have taken to purchasing vintage sweatshirts at impossible hours of the night, waking to the email receipts and feeling deeply confused. I read anything published on Seven Scribes, and I really believe in the work they do. I’m also at the place in my life where I go on Zillow and look at houses that I can’t afford while scrolling past the ones I actually can.
There’s this dog in my neighborhood. I’m not really good with dog breeds, but she’s a pretty small ball of fur. Her name is Emma, I’ve been told. I see her multiple times a week when I’m out and about. When she’s being walked while the sun is setting, she stares at it and barks gently. It’s this really precious thing, I think. I don’t know if a dog understands time as we understand time, or even if a dog understands a sunset the way we understand sunsets. And so there is Emma, barking a goodbye to the escaping light, without knowing whether or not it will ever return.
Your rituals (writing or not):
I turn off my phone before bed. This is a fairly new development in my life…perhaps about a year old. It floods my mornings with a bit more anxiety, but it makes my sleeping hours my own sleeping hours. I like to spend time at the gym when I can. I don’t really have fitness goals in mind, but, again, it is about a claiming of time for myself. The people who love me insist that I should say no to more things, and I think they’re right. And I’m working on it. But in the meantime, all of my rituals involve carving out enough small silences to crawl into for a while before stepping back out into the madness. And doing it without sacrificing my time for writing. I’m both a creature of habit and someone who lives a wildly unpredictable life, so it creates a real tension that doesn’t help my anxiety much, but I’ve just gotten used to it being what it is. I wanted this to be the year that I told people how much I love and value them more. I haven’t done a great job at that. I want that to be the new ritual. Perhaps the only one worth keeping close.
Least impressive thing about you:
I’m poor at communicating my actual needs and feelings more than I’d like to admit. I sometimes have a hard time zooming out of any pain or anger I feel. I think it bears mentioning again that I am exceptionally bad at hugging. My obsession with romantics surely makes a mess of some histories that aren’t my own, though I’m working on that. I don’t know. I don’t want to be impressive, but I want to be liked, which is unimpressive. The least impressive thing about me is pretty much everything except for all of that stuff I bragged about, and like half of that stuff was unconfirmed. But I still think I’m a decent, trying soul.
Favorite space to write:
In any room with windows that give me a view in the direction of home.
What should we know:
Khadijah Queen is the greatest living poet we’ve got, the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to win the Stanley Cup, Carly Rae Jepsen is the only honest pop star left, everything you write will tell you how it wants to live in the world.
Guilty literary pleasure:
None of my pleasures are guilty. Except for this one: once I picked up some Nicholas Sparks books at a thrift store, three for 99 cents, and I read all three in about a week’s time while on a solo vacation and I must say I was ENTHRALLED, but then when I got home from the vacation and tried to read one, I was very bothered by it. It was the vacation that did all of the work, I think. It’s like when you’re on a treadmill trying to finish a run, so you crank up the Slightly Problematic Banger to power you through, and the minute your run ends, you’re like “wow what am I listening to”
Best book nobody talks about:
This is a newer one, but I’m really in love with Cynthia Manick’s Blue Hallelujahs and I wish I saw more people in love with it as I am.
Character (TV, book, movie) you most identify with:
Matt Saracen from the show Friday Night Lights. I get it, I’m not a white high school quarterback in Texas. But then again, aren’t we all? Saracen is the great romantic and tragic character, because he wasn’t naturally gifted or comfortable in the world, but he really made the most of his limited abilities, and he failed a lot in the process.
Last time you lied:
ten minutes ago
I said that I was trying to eat less pastries at noon, and I had a pastry today at exactly 12:02 eastern standard time.
Question you secretly want to be asked:
“Is everything going to be ok in the end?”
Define “everything” and then define “the end.”
Then let’s talk.
Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first collection of poems, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, was released by Button Poetry in 2016. His first collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, is forthcoming from Two Dollar Radio in winter 2017.