I love poetry, and am hopeless at both understanding and explaining it. TS Eliot said “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” I love the words and rhythms and feeling, but I don’t always understand a poem in its entirety. So I apologize in advance for not being able to say anything sophisticated about Hanif Abdurraqib’s astonishing book of poetry, A Fortune for Your Disaster.
Abdurraquib is a Black poet who writes with great fierceness and beauty about the Black experience, freedom, confinement, death, nature, music, and truth. I’m not equipped to give him his full due, so I will quote Khadijah Queen about this book:
“A Fortune for Your Disaster proves that, if you pay attention, Black people have defined and still define themselves for themselves amid roses and dandelions, cardinals and violets, the blues of music and police uniforms, prayer and swagger, Kehinde Wiley paintings and too many funerals, the streets of bleak cities and the fraught histories of ’a kill or be killed / nation.’ The disaster is not us or ours but what we endure, forced as a matter of course, whether our presence is acknowledged or not, on our terms or not. […] If ‘memory is a field / with endless graves’ as disasters of the past bleed relentlessly into present and thus menace the future, Hanif Abdurraqib’s poems encompass the quiet and often lonely genius of our creativity as a means to ‘imagine that anything / can become us.’”
Thirteen of the poems in this book have the title “How Can Black People Write about Flowers at a Time Like This.” From one poem:
& lord knows I have been called by what I look like
more than I have been called by what I actually am &
I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this
exercise. which, too, is an attempt at fashioning
something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anything
worthwhile of the burial. Size me up & skip whatever semantics arrive
I can’t do this book of poetry justice. But I can say I loved it and will be re-reading it to better understand and appreciate the poems within.