HANIF ABDURRAQIB

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Q: Your work definitely takes from the world of performance poetry and you've performed much of your work. How does performance inspire or shape the work you write? Do you read aloud as you write it?

A: I do. I record myself reading when I'm editing, actually. My first drafts, I record myself, and then I play them back because I really believe in writing for sound and I want the work to sound good too. It's writing with language in mind and writing with an ear towards how I can best serve the poem sonically.

 

 

Q: How do you interpret "the medium is the message" for yourself in an age where ideas and expression can so seamlessly blend between the page and performance?

A: Yeah, I mean, I think that I look for freedom in my work and so I'm looking for freedom

to move around and work around ideas that are open to change, like possibly changing

ideas. And so I don't want to cement myself into one thing which is why I think the work

is important to both read well and sound good because it needs to hit as many notes

as possible.

 

Q: Besides the simple fact of Columbus being the place where you live, how does the

city specifically play into your work?

A: Well I feel like I'm trying to archive a city that no longer looks the way it did when I was

born into it and when I had most of my beloved moments, you know what I mean? I think

I'm now writing as not a reporter, but as an archiver, someone who is interested in the art

of archival, trying to hold onto a place I love that is no longer the place I remember it being.

 

Q: What advice do you have to give to someone looking to be a published writer?

A: That there are many different ways to be published in the landscape of writing today

and publication is not nearly as fascinating to me as inquiries and curiosity or interests. So

pursue your interests and curiosities first, and then publication will either come or it won't, but either way, you're honing some things you care about.

 

Q: You're also an editor of Muzzle Magazine; when reading submissions, what about a poem compels you to include it in the magazine?

A: I'm super excited by poems that are unafraid of honing or reinventing a cliche. I'm really interested in poems that take the simple and they just flesh it out into something larger, more frightening, or more engaging. What I'm saying, I think, is that I'm interested in poems that take the simple lived experience and hammer it into something different.

 

Q: How do you think a literary magazine can serve its community?

A: Oh, by publishing the voices of the community. What I really mean that I think that literary magazines serve the community best by first defining what the community is or what they want the community to be and then facing that community and asking the writers within it to represent the full spectrum that community sees. You run a literary magazine here, at Upper Arlington, right?

‚Äč

Q: Yes, yeah.

A: I mean, I think the best way to serve the community is to have as many different voices of the community writing as one. There's many—there's no such thing as a voice of a generation, right? We get that and we're sold that but there is many voices in a generation as there are of a generation. And so, the work that I'm most excited about is the work of collecting as many of those voices in that community as possible and having them speak about all, and each and every corner, of that community.

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