In-Depth Look: Hanif Abdurraqib – “At My First Punk Rock Show Ever, 1998”

In-Depth Look: Hanif Abdurraqib – “At My First Punk Rock Show Ever, 1998”

Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.

“We come here to see blood, like all boys who sneak past their sleeping fathers in ripped jeans.”
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Write-up by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre

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There are a lot of things to comment on in this poem– the power of its opening and closing line, how efficiently it’s constructed, how an entire relationship is illuminated by just a few scenes and lines. I’m particularly struck by how Abdurraqib uses place; right away, the title is evocative, but the first few lines go even deeper into what this place is– and what this place means. It’s one thing to understand “punk show” on an intellectual level; it’s something else to feel it– both in terms of its sights/smells/sounds, and the emotional energy that crackles through the relationships present in the poem.

For aspiring poets (maybe those readying their chapbook submissions), this is a valuable lesson. We sometimes think of “setting” as a fiction term, but poems have settings too, and especially with spoken word, creating a concrete, specific setting can do an enormous amount of work in terms of bringing the audience into the poem. It gives the reader (or listener) some ground to stand on, so they can be more fully present and open to the other elements of the poem.

Find more of Hanif Abdurraqib’s work here, and be sure to check out his new book, “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us,” here!

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While you’re here on our site, make sure to check out our books and merchandise in the Button Store, including Guante’s own book, as well as titles by Aziza Barnes, Danez Smith, Neil Hilborn, Donte Collins, Sabrina Benaim, Melissa Lozada-Oliva, and our newest release from William Evans.

In-Depth Look: Hanif Abdurraqib – “Watching A Fight At The New Haven Dog Park”

In-Depth Look: Hanif Abdurraqib – “Watching A Fight At The New Haven Dog Park”

Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.

“And I too, dress for the hell I want, and not the hell that is most likely coming.”
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Write-up by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre

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In school, I remember learning about metaphor, but it was always tied to learning about simile. Part of the “lesson” was being able to differentiate the two, and I think that because of that, a lot of us still tend to think about metaphor in an overly specific way. “It’s like a simile, but doesn’t use like.” We so often see metaphor as another tool in the toolbox, and not something more fundamental to the craft of poetry; less screwdriver or pliers, more hands.

As this poem demonstrates, metaphor is so much more than a one-line comparison between two images or ideas. It’s about world-building. It’s about how we interface with reality through the telling of stories, or the sharing of images. And because that process is messy, metaphors can be messy too– they’re not always perfectly-balanced equations. The swirling imagery in this poem– from the dogs, to their owners, to the memory of another fight, to the more concrete flashes of blood, teeth, and fists– it all pushes us deeper into the poem’s reality, closer to the nuanced point that Abdurraqib is making.

Find more of Hanif Abdurraqib’s work here!

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While you’re here on our site, make sure to check out our books and merchandise in the Button Store, including Guante’s own book, as well as titles by Aziza Barnes, Danez Smith, Neil Hilborn, Donte Collins, Sabrina Benaim, and our newest release from Melissa Lozada-Oliva.

In-Depth Look: Donte Collins – “New Country (after Safia Elhillo)”

In-Depth Look: Donte Collins – “New Country (after Safia Elhillo)”

Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.

“Yeah, I’m salty as fuck… that’s what happens when you’re dragged across an ocean.”
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Write-up by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre

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One of the most powerful things a poet can do is know for whom they’re writing– not that there’s always an easy answer. This poem, through its listing of moments, monuments, shared symbols, and beyond, builds a relationship with its audience. It builds relationships with other audiences too, in different ways, but it never loses sight of for whom it exists.

Additionally, there’s something electric in how Collins speaks on joy, community, and family, without ever using the words “joy,” “community,” or “family.” One of the most common writing exercises that poets and teachers use is the “I am from” poem, where a poet tries to communicate who they are, what they represent, and where they’re from, usually by listing a series of concrete images– smells, moments, sounds, etc. As this poem demonstrates, that impulse– to construct our identities not through a perfect, one-line thesis statement, but through an impressionistic landscape of images– can create some very memorable writing.

Check out Safia Elhillo’s poem “Self Portrait With No Flag” here. You can also find more from Donte Collins at their website and through their new book, Autopsy, available now through Button Poetry!

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While you’re here on our site, make sure to check out our books and merchandise in the Button Store, including Guante’s own book, as well as titles by Aziza Barnes, Danez Smith, Neil Hilborn, Donte Collins, and our newest release from Sabrina Benaim.

In-Depth Look: Bianca Phipps – “Stay With Me”

In-Depth Look: Bianca Phipps – “Stay With Me”

Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.

“Somewhere in this coward’s mouth is a brave heart’s confession.”
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Write-up by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre

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It’s possible to talk about what performance adds to a poem; but it’s also possible to talk about what it takes away. A poem on the page has a different (not better or worse, just different) set of tools to use to do the work that it wants to do. For example, page poets use line breaks and enjambment to create conversations between ideas, to shine different lights on words that may mean one thing in one context, and something very different in another. Seeing the words next to each other, seeing how the lines break, seeing how the poem “moves” on the page, is a different experience than listening to a poem.

While spoken word poems can still use juxtaposition and transitions to do some of that work, this poem takes it to another level. One can picture, while listening, where the lines might be breaking, and how the different ideas flow in and out of one another, mirroring the thought-stream of someone dealing with anxiety. It’s a powerful exploration of what a poem can do when its form, content, and delivery intertwine and work toward a common purpose.

For more from Bianca Phipps: Facebook | Twitter

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While you’re here on our site, make sure to check out our books and merchandise in the Button Store, including Guante’s own book, as well as titles by Aziza Barnes, Danez Smith, Neil Hilborn, Donte Collins, and our newest release from Sabrina Benaim.

In-Depth Look: Dave Harris – “To the Extent…”

In-Depth Look: Dave Harris – “To the Extent…”

Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.

“I say my anger is my greatest joy, and I become a heaven on fire.”
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Write-up by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre

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One of poetry’s most important functions is to communicate ideas in ways that honor their complexity. Speeches, academic papers, or thinkpieces don’t generally capture what this poem captures in terms of the relationships between hope and fear, resistance and rage, empathy (in a critical sense) and spite. These juxtapositions play out not just in the poem’s substance, but in Harris’ delivery as well– it’s subtle, but note how the poem “moves.” From the first line to the last line, while the overall volume/tone doesn’t shift much, the emotional charge builds and builds, finally setting up the devastating repetition of “I hope” lines that close the piece.

For further exploration, check out Marc Lamont Hill discussing Keith Scott on Democracy Now: “The Weapon Will Always Be Black Bodies.” Scholar of The Great Migration Wallace Best takes that idea beyond interpersonal interactions with “The Fear of Black Bodies in Motion.”

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While you’re here on our site, make sure to check out our books and merchandise in the Button Store, including Guante’s own book, as well as titles by Aziza Barnes, Danez Smith, Neil Hilborn, Donte Collins, and our newest release from Sabrina Benaim.