Hanif Abdurraqib & Angel Nafis vs. AWP Live!

March 20, 2018

Danez Smith: Hey, y’all, this is Danez.

Franny Choi: And this is Franny!

Danez Smith: And you are listening to a very special live episode of VS!

Franny Choi: Yes, we were very excited to record this live episode in Tampa, Florida, during the AWP conference.

Danez Smith: Yeah! We had a very great live show, thank you to Fly Bar in Tampa for hosting us. And it was just a grand old time, y’all. We’re very excited to bring y’all our little late-night slumber jam that we all had. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) Yeah. So enjoy this live, very special live episode of VS.

Danez Smith: Yeah. You’ll hear us again in a second. Bye!


Danez Smith: She’s the star of an Asian-washed version of Mona Lisa smile, Franny Choi.

Franny Choi: And they’re the gospel choir in residence at your local laundromat, Danez Smith!

Danez Smith: And welcome to VS, the podcast where poets confront the ideas that move them

Franny Choi: Brought to you by the Poetry Foundation and Postloudness and all of you gorgeous motherfuckers, give it up for yourselves, please…


Danez Smith: Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I hope you all ask me for consent later, lord! It’s really nice-looking from here.

Franny Choi: We’re sitting at the top of Fly Bar on this rooftop on this tropical—airquotes for the recording—“tropical” evening in Tampa, Florida.

Danez Smith: I’m from Minnesota, so I’m damn near about to get naked right now. This is hot.

Franny Choi: I’m having a great time.

Danez Smith: This is summer, I’m a little clamped underneath the armpits right now. It’s a lot.

Franny Choi: Nipples are perked but the spirit is strong.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)


Danez Smith: Yo my nipples are always hard, and I realized that today. I had on, like, this tasteful mesh earlier today, and every time I looked down…, like, somebody would say, like, a good thing about a poem and it was just, like, umm! And they would poke through the shirt.

Franny Choi: Girl, there's literally scotch tape on my nipples as we speak.

Danez Smith: Daaaammmn!!!

Franny Choi: Listen.

Danez Smith: That's a trick. I didn't even know about that yet.

Franny Choi: This is an educational program.

Danez Smith: Not duct tape?


Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: You can wax a bit of it, you know, you know. I got a couple hairs on my nipples, that can always go away. Umm, what about masking tape. That’s a little bit more, like, you know.

Franny Choi: You are getting too avant-garde for this reading right now, OK.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: Like, this is not OK.

Danez Smith: I’m experimental in this mug, Franny. Umm, how you feeling this AWP?

Franny Choi: I’m feeling very good. I’m drinking a free sangria right now, so, like, what else is there to say. (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: Who else is drinking free sangria in the building?


Franny Choi: Hell yes.

Danez Smith: Cheap motherfuckers better tip!

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: Do you remember your first AWP?

Franny Choi: Yeah. I remember walking in and being, like, I am a speck of sand…

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)


Franny Choi: … in the universe.

Danez Smith: Word. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: I am nothing. And then two seconds later, I, like, found my friends and I was like, OK, cool.

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Franny Choi: We’re here.

Danez Smith: Hmm. Hmm.

Franny Choi: What about you, do you remember your first AWP?

Danez Smith: Yeah, I had a.. it was less sand, more of a Destiny's Child metaphor. So I walked in as Beyoncé and left as LaTavia.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)


Danez Smith: But that's... that's a good amount of humbleness that you need, yo, you know, like, I realized that, like, really what the work is, is, like, getting, like, grown enough to at least be Michelle.

Franny Choi: Woof!

Danez Smith: And I think I’m at LeToya at this point in my life. So on my way to Kelly. On my way to Kelly. One of these days.

Franny Choi: What is your number one AWP survival tip?

Danez Smith: Survival tip? Ooooh. I’ve been playing a game this year with myself, with my water bottle. So every time somebody either says something that pisses me off, or says something that, like, lights up my soul, I take a sip.

Franny Choi: Oooh!

Danez Smith: And it's a good way to keep hydrated. Because if it's your first AWP, see how you feel about, like, mid-morning Saturday, like…

Franny Choi: It’s, like, the most wholesome drinking game I've ever heard of. (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: And just, like, health first.

Danez Smith: You just go hate on my hydration?

Franny Choi: No! I’m not hating on it, I’m…

Danez Smith: You see these pores, they don’t happen from drinking pop all wild and shit. It’s water! (LAUGHING) How about you, Franny, what’s your survival tip?

Franny Choi: My survival tip is that I have been leaving events …


Franny Choi: … at the drop of a fucking dime.


Franny Choi: Like, one person says one off-color word and I'm just, like…….


Danez Smith: And now I'm the only one hosting this podcast.

Franny Choi: I’m just in bed.

Danez Smith: Word. I appreciate that. What’s your favorite AWP memory?

Franny Choi: My favorite AWP memory probably… honestly, the highlight of my fucking career is going to be when we, as the Dark Noise Collective…

Danez Smith: (Cockney accent) Dark Noise?

Franny Choi: …organized a fish fry…

Danez Smith: Fish fry?

Franny Choi: … in Los Angeles.

Danez Smith: Los Angeles?


Franny Choi: Sure, sure, sure.  And then….um…

Danez Smith: And then?


Franny Choi: … And then, on time, not even on time, ten minutes early, who was in the front row, sitting down, with her hands folded in her lap, but Patricia Smith herself? And we were all, like, burn all of our books. That’s it. That’s all we needed, ever, ever.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: What about you?

Danez Smith: Two things. Two things because I'm that kind of person. One, also Patricia Smith-related, our first-ever fish fry that was an AWP in Seattle. At a certain point in the night, I had fried all this fish, and it was Patricia Smith and Adam Falkner in the corner just eating the burnt bits out of a bowl. And I was so… It was… thank you! Thank you for eating those burnt bits. And I really, like, felt, like, like, Big Mama, in that moment. I just, like, looked upon my people in my greasy kitchen and it was, like, I did a good thing. That came from me, you know? Like, that is… that is Martin Luther King's dream right there. I had a dream that one day Patricia Smith and, like, this skinny white boy would be, like, eating these, like burnt bits. (LAUGHING)


Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: When did that happen! When did that happen! You never saw, like, Ida B. Wells and, like, a young…

Franny Choi: Oh my god.

Danez Smith: A young Sean Penn, just, like eating fish together.


Franny Choi: (SHRIEKING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: I’m so mad at you for saying “a young Sean Penn.” Why don’t we bring up our first guest of the evening?

Danez Smith: I think that’s a good idea, Franny.

Franny Choi: I don’t know if we’re gonna get any better than that. So, our first guest of the evening is none other than the incredible…

Danez Smith and Franny Choi: Hanif Abdurraqib!


Danez Smith: Wo-ho-ho-ho! We’re gonna talk your shit, we’re gonna talk your shit. Author of The Crown Ain’t Worth Much


Danez Smith: …author of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us..


Danez Smith: … future author of other long-ass titles…


Danez Smith: … coming from Columbus, Ohio, ice-cream connoisseur…

Franny Choi: Platonic ideal of husband…


Danez Smith: ..legit… I’m part of a group that was called, wouldn’t you marry Hanif… (LAUGHING)… and I think that’s what y’all need.

Franny Choi: Please make all the noise possible in your body for…

Danez Smith and Franny Choi: Hanif Abdurraqib!!!!


Hanif Abdurraqib: (OFF MIC) I’m on this one?

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Hanif Abdurraqib: No, no one should marry me. My first featured reading ever was with Patricia Smith in 2013 and I, like, drove her back to wherever she was staying. And I was talking about slam, and I was, like, yeah, I did this slam the other day and I don't think I did really well. And she said, did you read the poems that you wanted to, and I said yeah, she said, did you read poems you like to people, who listened to them, and I said yeah, she said, you did fine. I hope she’s well, wherever she is tonight. This poem has the word n*** in it a lot. It’s not an apology, it’s just information for you.


Hanif Abdurraqib: This poem is called “Love Ya N***”.


Hanif Abdurraqib: I am again considering how I sit

inside of this face between two g’s.

As I did when the officer

thumbed the handle of his weapon and asked

what you boys doing out so late one night

on Livingston, while the skin of me and two of

my n**** hushed the brightness of the streetlights

and we are old enough boys to know when

someone wasn't actually calling us boys. Look

at how these fools put dancing shoes on all

that language. Like, my n*** ain't write the book.

And then have the book stolen and then take

back whatever pages they could before slipping out

a window. And what you have to realize is that fire

knows no master beyond whatever has summoned it.


And so, in Virginia, the torture sprayed a mist of sparks

across the sky. And in Ohio, me and my n**** threw our

hands over a fire and let the flames seduce the meat brown

and cracked jokes until somebody”q momma got to

rolling over in her grave and some n*** might say

to force movement out of the dead is another way to keep

the ancestors close. And so I sin and I sin and I know,

and I hope when I die, there are some n**** still kicking

it and willing to yell something heavy and improper

about my living, so that I too may know what it is to roll over

and to roll up on a n**** is another type of intimacy.

And once we rolled up on some n**** over a card game

or over some weed or over loneliness

and I guess loneliness is another type of debt.

And there is no cure for the ache of living,

like, running with some n***

who might actually get your ass killed

And speaking of absence

I am considering how the space between two g’s is

where we might congregate. Those who love us

and those who want to see us dead.

Oh, how we've both found ourselves wedded

to the way the g sits in the back of the throat

for a swift moment

before tumbling down

the tongue and out of a car window in a town

where you might be far away from your n****.

And I'm wondering if this is the common ground

I have been hearing so much about.

It seems, I love my g’s as you do, executioner.

And what a tool this is for both of us

The way one can wrap their fingers around

the letters open mouth and use its bottom

to dig a grave.

During the Q&A., the old black woman

who could be my kin in the way that anyone

who has outlived my kin could be my kin,

asks me what I think about putting the word

n*** in my poems and in another voice

she is asking if I know who had to die for me

to be here with this ungrateful tongue

And who am I really to curate the small space

between love and violence.

And I think of this when I say I love you my n***

and slap my hand so hard that the blood vibrates

underneath my palm for hours and I want

the ghost of every type of love I have for

my n**** to echo for days like these where

it is raining in a city and I make mirrors

out of every surface so that I am both me

and all my n**** and I am considering the g again.

All my g’s done dirt and some have become it

My g’s wish to be made into ash upon

their leaving, but we bury my g’s anyway.

My n*** ain't one to miss a chance to get fly

And a funeral will do if nothing else will.

God, grant me a good grave in your gracious ground.

Let someone else be kept awake at night

by the sound of my body moving the earth

in the name of all my n**** and their breathing in

iridescent sins.



Franny Choi: Make some noise again for Hanif Abdurraqib.


Franny Choi: We were talking downstairs, whilst I was ignoring some fish tacos that were... that were nearby, about some new directions that your work was going in, so can you… can you talk a little bit about that?

Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah, so I'm working on two things. I write in two different forms although I imagine them as the same, but just for the sake of what this is, I write in two different forms. And I think my poems are going in the direction where I started thinking about writing poems about heartbreak, and the recovery after a heartbreak. And I think that when men do that—I will say, like, specifically straight men do that—it's very, like, targeted and angry in a lot of ways. And directed at a person who, like, shouldn't have to answer for whatever emotional rigor you have to go through to make yourself okay.

Franny Choi: Yeah, for sure.

Hanif Abdurraqib: So I'm trying to write poems about sadness. Since I’m the only one in the room who has to unravel my own instead of, like, leaning it on other people as I feel like I've done in the past. I think a lot about the Kanye West album, “808s and Heartbreak,” where, if we did not know what was going on on the interior of his life, we would think about that as an album, kind of, of aimless grief. And I think that aimless grief can also be like healing. But, I'm also working on a long-form book of prose about black performance through American history that begins with, like, minstrelsy and, like, delves into, like, sports, and….  I don't know, people who heard me read on Tuesday, I read this, like, long thing about Whitney Houston at the ‘88 Grammys and Soul Train Lines. And that's kind of the vein of that, right, where it's, like, I’m thinking about how black performance can be…. in America at least… can be in some ways about stripping shame away. I grew up thinking that, like, minstrel shows were only negative, right, because, of course, we hear that, like, the way they are clarified and the way we kind of take… It's, like, a terrible thing. But for some of those performers it was, like, really liberating, you know. In the era of some of those performers, that's how they, like, literally got themselves free. And I'm thinking a lot about what it means to have to degrade yourself for an audience in order to become free, internally.

Danez Smith: Wow.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Not that Whitney Houston did that. But I'm thinking about a lot, like, the shame behind not being able to dance, or not being able to play spades. The shame behind the black person not being able to. Right.

Franny Choi: Hmm.

Danez Smith: Hmm.

Hanif Abdurraqib: And still chasing after that thing. Like people who can’t play spades but still play regularly.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: It’s so funny cause halfway through that, I was thinking, shit, Eve is gonna think I’m making fun of her. 

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)


Hanif Abdurraqib: Sorry.

Danez Smith: It’s OK if you can’t play spades. Just stop trying in public.


Franny Choi: Ooooooooow.

Danez Smith: It’s true! Spades is a hard tradition. It’s hard to come to that table trying to learn, alright, that’s all I’m saying. It's not a learner's permit. You either got the license or are you just… you know, running against some cake for other people at the table. (LAUGHING) I’m not a lying, there’s uno at the other table.


Danez Smith: Hanif, do you ever find that you… do you ever find that contained in that same sort of, like, degrading, like, performance that you have to do as a poet that you, like, exploring into blackface?

Hanif Abdurraqib: You mean, like, do I feel like I'm performing for an audience in a way that could be seen as degrading in order to make myself feel better?

Danez Smith: Yeah! Or is that, is that too...

Franny Choi: That’s a hell of a question. God damn.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Not so much anymore. I think a lot of black performers run into what I started to coin as a Chappelle problem, right. You don't know why people are laughing. Or you don't know what exactly they’re laughing at. Or you think they're laughing at the wrong thing. By laughing I mean feeling, like, any kind of emoting. I lived in Connecticut for two and a half years…

Danez Smith: I’m sorry.


Hanif Abdurraqib: I mean, Angel knows.

Danez Smith: I’m sorry, bro.

Hanif Abdurraqib: And whenever I read anything, white people were just, like, oh, I'm just so emotionally moved. Like, yeah, I can just read, like, a menu. It's, like, I'm just reading… Fran, what do you want to drink off of this menu. It's just, like, oh my god… I'm trembling.


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah and I'm, like, by myself, like, I find myself asking where that emotion was stemming from. Like, what happened to bring that forth. I sometimes think I don't want to know the answer. In giving up on wanting to know the answer, I've also, like, given up on wanting to chase after, like, the several questions inside it, you know.

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Hanif Abdurraqib: So now I think I'm just, like, writing away from that answer.

Danez Smith: Amen!

Hanif Abdurraqib: I’m writing away from what I imagine that answer to be.

Franny Choi: Hmm.

Danez Smith: Hmm.

Franny Choi: Are there, like, strategies or things that you do in order to avoid giving…. that, like, satisfaction of catharsis. You know what I mean?

Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah, and I don’t know if this is in the same vein, but the thing I started thinking about is being, like, wholy against explanation. This I think happens in both my forms of work, but in longform work especially. The critics I loved growing up, wrote to me as if I knew The Beatles existed the whole time. As if I was born, like, knowing The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were canon. And so I always think, like, why would I not write about Migos as if Steve from accounting doesn't know who they are the whole time. Right.

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Hanif Abdurraqib: And I think that's, like, a small gesture, but I think it, like, levels the playing field of critical discussion. It allows us to imagine a world in which three, like, absurd rappers from Atlanta are on par in a critical space with The Rolling Stones or The Beatles because we talk about them as if they'd been here the whole time. And we don't make this exception, like, okay, the Migos are three rappers from Atlanta, and one of them is this, and this and this. That’s not… I don't …. no one needs to know that. They need to know what they draw out of a person and what experience they carry a person to. I was reading like… these motherfuckers were talking to me about, like, Mick Jagger as if, you know, me in Columbus, Ohio at, like, 10 years old was supposed to know who Mick Jagger was. And that made me find out who he was. And so I'm totally against explanation. Now… you're going to have to work to come to me.

Danez Smith: Hmm.

Franny Choi: Hmm.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Right.

Franny Choi: Yes, yes.


Danez Smith: Follow-up question who’s your favorite Migos?

Hanif Abdurraqib: I…well… this is, like…

Danez Smith: Cardi B is also my answer.


Hanif Abdurraqib: At this point….

Danez Smith: Look...

Hanif Abdurraqib: She says off set as much as on set.

Danez Smith: She put the pussy on Offset, you know.

Hanif Abdurraqib: I mean, it's hard because the one I like is maybe the most… now openly ….. They're all… they're all, like…

Danez Smith: Let's just assume we know they homophobic. We can also assume that shit.

Hanif Abdurraqib: I was just gonna say… I didn’t want to not address their homophobia.

Danez Smith: Yeah. Like fuck Migos and also, I like Quavo. You know? Like, yeah.

Hanif Abdurraqib: I like Offset, and here is why I like Offset. I like Offset cause he is the one who is, like, least definitively good at something.


Hanif Abdurraqib: But, in doing that…


Hanif Abdurraqib: …he is good at everything, right. Because think about it…

Danez Smith: (CHEERING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: Logic?

Franny Choi: Some kind of logic.

Hanif Abdurraqib: OK, what is… what is… what is the biggest Migos song ever.

Danez Smith: Bad and Boujee.

Hanif Abdurraqib: That song without Offset does not exist.


Hanif Abdurraqib: Doesn’t exist.

Danez Smith: That’s true.

Hanif Abdurraqib: That song is ninety percent chorus. It’s not even a hot take! That is, like, literally fact.


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)


Hanif Abdurraqib: If you remove Offset from Bad and Boujee, the song has no chorus, and n*** aren’t remembering those lyrics.

Franny Choi: Woooow.

Danez Smith: Damn. (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: I don’t think that’s a hot take.

Danez Smith: It’s maybe a hot take for me to even…

Hanif Abdurraqib: You’re listening to it all, take off Bad and Boujee…

Danez Smith: Isn’t that just silence?

Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah!

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: I like Offset, is my short answer.

Danez Smith: OK. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: This is slightly off topic, but you mentioned your Connecticut years.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah, I did.

Franny Choi: The blue period.


Franny Choi: We were hanging out for part of that, because I was living in Providence.

Hanif Abdurraqib: You were the only person keeping me sane.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: If I was going to mosey down to Providence. Whilst she was next door. I was going to mosey on this hour-and-a-half drive…


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) Hanif would be, like, no I'll come hang out, like, where… when… Tuesday? Tomorrow? Now? Now. What are you doing right now.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: But I was wondering… are you a different writer in Columbus than you were not in Columbus? Because you were somebody who, like, is Columbus down to the marrow, you know.

Hanif Abdurraqib: I am. Yeah.

Danez Smith: Annoyingly so. (LAUGHING)


Franny Choi: Wow.

Hanif Abdurraqib: I feel like Danez been waiting to say that for so long…

Danez Smith: Nah. This is just casual Midwest beef, you know.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah…

Danez Smith: Shout-out to Minnesota, the real Midwest state.


Danez Smith: Hey, what can I say, what else. It’s true, it’s true. We give Ohio to the East Coast, they got another time zone and everything…

Hanif Abdurraqib: Shout-out to Minnesota, and all the white hipsters, like, yes.


Hanif Abdurraqib: Raising their craft beers, like, yes, yes, my brother.


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) From Duluth to Moorhead. Rise. Yeah, it’s true. (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: I have a different… I wrote most of my first poetry book, “The Crown Ain’t Worth Much” while not living in Columbus. And what that meant for me was that… the book is about Columbus and about the gentrification in the city. And in writing about it, I felt like I did not have to honor the city's architecture entirely factually, because I wasn't among it. So I got to really build a world that I wanted. And not have to feel guilt about it, I think. And now that I'm home… Weirdly I'm writing about Connecticut. You know, I'm writing about the distance I felt  there, and the way I felt entirely other than in ways that didn't make sense to me when I was actually living in it.

Danez Smith: Hmm.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Because when you're there, it's just, like, yeah, you know, this is kind of weird. But surely everyone's living like this. I’m a different writer because I'm happier. My office space faces a window which faces a building. But through that building I can, like, see a sliver of a park that I love.


Danez Smith: Wait, through the buil… , like…

Hanif Abdurraqib: Through cracks in the building I can see a sliver of a park I love.

Franny Choi: So there is a window and through the window on, like, the other side…

Danez Smith: I got you, I got you.

Hanif Abdurraqib: It’s like.. and I feel more at home immersed in staring at the sliver of that park than I did at any time in Connecticut.

Danez Smith: Wow.

Hanif Abdurraqib: And that makes me feel like I'm capable of anything. And when I'm home, I have people who, like, me, fuck with me no matter what my writing is, because they've known me my whole life. And so, you know…. So much of my time in Connecticut was tied to people who were, like, my value was based off of what I could create. And at home most people don’t care. Like, when that Random House shit went down, I told one of my homies, like, hey I just signed a two-book deal at Random House, she was, like, OK, cool, but you’re, like, late to dinner.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: I’ve been waiting at this restaurant for ten minutes for you. I feel like I'm a whole person beyond what I create and that makes me create freely.

Franny Choi: Wow. Yes.


Franny Choi: Yes, yes! You can applaud for that!


Danez Smith: OK, I I think we got to wrap up some time soon. Can I ask you one more question?

Hanif Abdurraqib: Yes.

Danez Smith: This is, like, pure music nerd shit. What are two mixtapes that I need to go home and download? Do we still download mixtapes?

Hanif Abdurraqib: If you were to download a mixtape… I think, uhm.. the first No Ceilings, yeah.

Danez Smith: Woooooo!


Danez Smith: That Swag Serve?


Hanif Abdurraqib: You know what’s so funny. Because Lil Wayne's run of, like, dominance  was so short in retrospect.

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Hanif Abdurraqib: So I was trying to explain, like, the difference between, like, album… Cause Carter III is, like, fine, right.

Danez Smith: Yeah.


Hanif Abdurraqib: Carter III is OK, but I think … I was at a high school, and I was trying to explain, like, mixtape Wayne to, like, highschoolers, and I was, like, and in, like, No Ceilings there’s, like, not a bad verse. And there is, like, twenty-one songs on that shit. And I think, after No Ceilings, Lil Wayne got a little too, like, wordy and started wasting bars, but on No Ceilings there’s the sweetspot of, like, Golden Era Wayne. There’s not a bad verse, it’s a true mixtape because he’s repurposing other beats, and so you get to see, like, dexterity in a way that is just phenomenal. And this is maybe a little bit of a weird one…

Danez Smith: We like weird, have you listened to our podcast?

Hanif Abdurraqib: …was, hum…I like R&B mixtapes. That Tinashe joint from a couple years ago.

Danez Smith: Ooooooooh….

Hanif Abdurraqib: Nightride or whatever. I liked it. I like Tinashe. I want the best for her. I think she’s struggling…

Danez Smith: She makes so many strange decisions though.

Hanif Abdurraqib: So many strange decisions.

Danez Smith: She’s ways always taking those weird-ass pictures of, like, toilets and shit like that. Like, hi, I'm Tinashe, here's a bidet. Like, what the fuck?

Hanif Abdurraqib: Or it’s, like, the cover for her last single, she’s, like, wearing some massive sleeves.

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Hanif Abdurraqib: It's, like, a short shirt with gigantic sleeves. Like, who's doing this for her?

Danez Smith: Yo, her PR… her team don’t love her.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Her team doesn’t fuck with her.

Danez Smith: They need to hear that Love Ya N*** poem. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: Love your friends enough to tell them… to get shorter sleeves…


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: … at the very least.


Danez Smith: Would you be down to read us one more poem?

Hanif Abdurraqib: I would. Can I stay here while reading?

Danez Smith: You may sit…

Hanif Abdurraqib: No, I’ll stand. I just can’t. I have taste and stuff.

Danez Smith: You can… we can all.. we can, like, snap on the side. You can do it real R&B style and sit.

Hanif Abdurraqib: I’m going to read a poem…. I've been writing these poems in the voice of Marvin Gaye's ghost. So Marvin Gaye made this record called “Here, My Dear,” I know some of y’all know it…


Hanif Abdurraqib: He, like, made it essentially to pay off his ex wife after a divorce. And I've been writing these poems in the voice of his ghost if we were to imagine his ghost were living inside of that album. This is very little to do with that, it’s mostly just jokes. Surely everyone here knows what the dozens are. Or you'll find out quick.


The ghost of Marvin Gaye plays a dozens

with the pop charts

Yo mouth so wide

it can swallow a whole city in one bite

yo mouth so wide

all the black people in Detroit

don't remember what their parents danced to

You think you so black

you paint the stars on your chest

You think you so black.

You got a bed in everybody house.

You take the last chicken leg and leave meat on the bone

You think the tea just got sweet from the sugar

You so ugly, the mirror trembled at your new

white face and then you walked into the mirror

and then you became the mirror

and then you tore the skin from anyone

who stood before you

and then there was a grocery store in the lot

where we used to have the block party

and then everything you drank from became a whisper

Yo mouth is so wide

when it opens I can see myself crawling out

Starved and thrashing against your tongue

An old suit hanging from my fragile arms

I have tried on all your clothes and still nothing fits but the blood

Everybody wanna make soul

but don't nobody want to chew a hole

through the night.

Small enough for a bullet to pass through

and pull each of their lovers into it.

Everybody wanna make soul

but don't nobody want to hemorrhage a whole

family into sweat

in white powder

in so much sex

they will never speak of what killed you

Yo momma so full she a whole planet

Yo momma so black

she everywhere

but ain't never on time

Yo momma so black

she saying Hounddog first

and died with nothing to her name

but the drink which carried her to the grave

Yo momma so black

she's my momma too

Yo momma saw the gun and let you bleed out

and ran screaming into the sunlight

Yo momma so black

she knows when there

ain't nothing left worth saving

yo momma so black

she will come for you

and know by your smell that you ain't one of her own

Yo momma so black

she will carry you

in her teeth to the river and hold you down

until you become either holy or dead.




Danez Smith: A little louder for Hanif Abdurraqib, everybody!


Danez Smith: That’s a bad motherfucker. Even if he is from Ohio. I need to stop having Midwest hate, you know. It’s so hard. I feel so pitied by Chicago all the time. (LAUGHING) That, like, I just start lashing out at, like, Indiana and Michigan and all these other places.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: Ah! Remember me!

Franny Choi: [INAUDIBLE]

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) Yeah, it’s true, it’s true. OK, shall we get to our next guest? She is the author of Black Girl Mansion, she is just the B’est fucking E.

Franny Choi: She’s the winner of a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship.

Danez Smith: Yeah. yeah. Sometimes let's keep all that money. I appreciate it. Just a real bad mamma jamma. Amazing organizer, amazing poet, amazing person, amazing love…. Everybody please, give a huge round of applause for Angel Nafis!!


Angel Nafis: Hi!


Angel Nafis: Woof, it is just very cold. But I'm wearing flannel and y’all are very cute.


Love on Flatbush Avenue


Because the roach had wings and tore thru our crib like a landlord or

a ghost and you screamed first even though i saw it first heading for the

light and it hid behind the white curtain or it colonized the whole window

and promised to never die and because it’s been nearly seven years of my

mouth on your mouth and your mouth and your mouth i knew what i hafta

do so i took the bougie 7th generation cleaning solution that we buy cuz

we concerned about our carbon footprint and i spray and spray and spray

and punctuate each one with a scream and repeat about 11 times before

the roach slows its juke and i hit him with something who can say what

just something that is not my hand or my new clogs or my anything i love

or use to love and i scream how the roach looks like shrimp (CROWD LAUGHING) and i hear

you now laughing from the other end of the apartment and you are like really

feeling yourself you chortle so much it sounds like all your ancestors

done joined you and i holler from the landlord’s new room what’s funny

bitch? and boy that really does it cause here you go peeling and peeling

all yo giggles outchyo mouth and here go your Safta Bea guffawing right along

with you i mean carrying on your Getzel’s there too i know because you

are laughing with all your teeth and whole belly and now the ruined bug

is spread across the wall and i holler and think it should be chalk-outlined

but i bag it and run snorting down the hallways and out the

front door and down the steps and now all my people are with me too, shit Delcie

and Ellie Pearl and James Ganzi and we running like we got wings and

know where the light is and i throw the dearly departed into the bins on

Flatbush Ave and maybe it’s raining a little and so my afro is soggy when i

return to you and rinse my hands in the busted bathroom sink and i look

at you and think it’s such a good thing to pick your own life

O, tonite i killed a thing cuz you are not from

a killing people and we pant with our own

jokes and inherited tongues and we

tangle our separate homes together.



Angel Nafis: Wow. Thanks!

Danez Smith: Wow. That’s one of my favorite poems in the world, yo. I did kill a roach today, and it was not that romantic, let me tell you that. It’s true, it’s true, Fati was there. It was just a real nasty crunch on a napkin.


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) And then I looked around, like, where’s my boo.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: You really gotta reach. That’s what I’ll say. You really gotta reach.

Danez Smith: I thought the roach would have been my matchmaker, you know. (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: It might still be. Wait for it. Wait for it! My poem came later.

Danez Smith: Did it?

Angel Nafis: Yeah, it was, like, I had a… as true for all things good in my life, I had a deadline and was, like, fuck. Like, said I would do some shit that I should have been did. And the hour was nigh and I just, like, was, like, fuck. And I had a whole plan to write about my mom and then I was, like, n****, that's not happening. So I picked the most recent shit that had happened and… you know, Shira and I live in what is now not a terrible apartment, but when we moved into it, it was, like, you have to really reach for your optimism in a very, like, aggressive way.

Danez Smith: Yeah. You gotta walk..

Angel Nafis: It was.. like… we walked in and I was, like, we’re alive…(LAUGHING)


Angel Nafis: It was just, like, roach shit every whence way, and… She’s from, like, a cute life. So she was not prepared…

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: You know, cause I was, like, well, this is sometimes what it is… and she was, like, is it? (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: Um… and we just, like, cleaned all manner of roach shit and.. we thought we got rid of them and, you know…

Danez Smith: They come back.

Angel Nafis: They come back… You gotta, like, close the garbage bin and, like, clean the dishes..

Danez Smith: Hmm, burn a little sage…

Angel Nafis: Cause they can’t wait. You leave a chip out and they’re, like… hey my n***… (TONGUE FLAPPING SOUND)


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: So that was rough. But you know… And still I rise, so..

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: Yeah, yeah. You have to truly believe…

Danez Smith: The roach is gone.

Angel Nafis: No, it’s like… that Mariah Carey / Whitney Houston duet.


Danez Smith: Believe?

Angel Nafis and Danez Smith: (SINGING) When you… believe…

Danez Smith: Was that for the Prince of Egypt soundtrack?

Angel Nafis: That was the very one.

Danez Smith: Wow, wow. Which Disney movie has the best soundtrack?

NA: Wuff...

Franny Choi: Wow.

NA: Wooooooow.. you gave Hanif the easy one…

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: There’s no way to avoid a hot take on this one.

Franny Choi: No, it’s true.

NA: Well, I mean… super basic in saying this, but…

Franny Choi: Say it.

NA: N***, Lion King.


Franny Choi: Wow!


Danez Smith: No it’s not, it’s not the answer.

Franny Choi: Are you gonna say Mulan right now?

Danez Smith: I’m gonna say Mulan right now.

Angel Nafis: Nooooo!


Franny Choi: Can we take a quick poll of the audience?


Franny Choi: Not that kind of poll, there’s two options!

Angel Nafis: Yeah, let’s define “poll.”

Danez Smith: Yeah, this is a general election, like, Aladdin in this case is the Green Party, OK, so let’s just, like… You know, don’t waste your vote. Alright, don’t waste your vote. We know they get money for the next election. Whatever, OK, yeah, yeah, yeah.

OK. Make a little noise for Lion King.


Angel Nafis: (CHEERING)

Danez Smith: Make a little noise for… Mulan


Angel Nafis: Really!? Is that what it is, AWP?

Danez Smith: N***, let’s get down to business to defeat the hunt.

Angel Nafis: False. You know.

Danez Smith: I feel like this is a very queer audience, a lot of people, like, probably saw their future in Mulan, it was like, I can be whoever I want… (LAUGHING) 

Franny Choi: I can wipe off my entire gender with one wipe.

Angel Nafis: I kind of resent that Lion King isn’t queer, my n****, like, if we want to just dissertation it: look at young Timon and Pumbaa.

Danez Smith: … Timon and Pumbaa! (LAUGHING)


Angel Nafis: Yo. The Bert and Ernie of a generation, my n***.

Franny Choi: Wow!


Danez Smith: That’s all I want, is to eat bugs and just fuck my n***, you know.

Angel Nafis: (LAUGHING) And raise a little wayward n*** on the street.

Danez Smith: Yeah. And raising Simba is just a little metaphor for an interracial couple, like, it's a black and white couple adopting an Asian baby.

Angel Nafis: Exactly.

Franny Choi: Wow!

Angel Nafis: Who got mixed up in some ill shit, killed his dad on accident and now.. he’s looking for…

Franny Choi: Slimy yet satisfying, bitch.

Angel Nafis: Wow…

Danez Smith: I’ve been thinking a little bit lately, like, and I want to know because you're, like, one of my, like, favorite blacks.

Angel Nafis: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: I’ve been thinking about all these, like, surprising places where you, like, see some shit and even if it's not, like, like, that’s black. We were talking the other day in a text, like, The Price Is Right. Is definitely a black thing.

Angel Nafis: Yes! Quite black.

Danez Smith: What’s maybe a couple of things you looked at and were like, oh, I never knew that was black. Of course it is.

Angel Nafis: Man. What haven't I. Chewing gum is black as fuck.


Angel Nafis: But the way in which black people chew gum… No it's, like….


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: Just taking some shit that everyone does, but putting a signature on it.

Danez Smith: Yeah. For those of y’all who are listening on the podcast right now, her jaw did more of a shimmy than a chew.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: Like the gum helps you assess what the situation…

Danez Smith: Gum as a tool of analysis.

Angel Nafis: Gum as a tool of analysis, yeah, the gum is, like do we need to ruuuuuuun?

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: Is that the FEDs?

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)


Angel Nafis: And I think gum chewing, I’ve noticed recently… Just, we chew differently. 

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Angel Nafis: Than I would say… other… sectors of humankind.

Danez Smith: I love the way you said that too, because it’s just flashbacks to, how would that be said on ComicView, like, you know, white people chew gum…

Angel Nafis: I actually don’t know how whites chew gum. If somebody would…

Danez Smith: I think they’re more of a tic-tac people.  


Angel Nafis: Talk about it.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: Or, like, more of a coffee and then just in your face, people.

Danez Smith: Wow.

Angel Nafis: Sorry, y’all.

Danez Smith: Are y’all really out here, just, like, drinking coffee and then just chit-chatting?

Angel Nafis: N***… Quite.


Danez Smith: Wow…

Angel Nafis: How long have you been at AWP?

Danez Smith: Ha?

Angel Nafis: Give us some time. Surely someone will… approach you…

Franny Choi: Have you had a particularly AWP moment?

Angel Nafis: What do we define as an AWP moment?

Franny Choi: Like a…

Danez Smith: Cause we had some moments.

Angel Nafis: Oh damn. That was fuck shit. But can we really just sound off on this young podcast? I don’t know if we can.

Danez Smith: I think we can talk…

Angel Nafis: That might be left better to the group texts.

Danez Smith: How about how about no names but situations?

Angel Nafis: (CHORTLING)


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: You know what’s black? Sometimes? A subtweet.

Danez Smith: A subtweet?

Angel Nafis: Like, often it's white, but sometimes it’s salty, it’s so black.

Danez Smith: Yeah. So we can sub-podcast right now?

Franny Choi: Yeah, sub-podcast.

Danez Smith: Sub-podcast, sub-podcast.

Angel Nafis: Well… So we were at a reading. We were trying to be at a reading.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) Just trying to...

Angel Nafis: And we rolled up—if it’s more than one, we are rolling up—and we thought we were regular. You know, you forget and you think you're, like, regular.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: We like rolled up and we're, like, cool, like, now we're going to walk through the door. Everyone else walks through the door, why can’t we. And quickly we discovered…

Danez Smith: We were not regular.

Angel Nafis: … you can't walk through the door. We’ll call her homegirl. What did she even say; sometimes you leave with how it felt and not what happened.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: You know what I’m saying, first of all, we need to break down: we're writers. What’s, like.. to me “suggested donation” means it's a suggestion. Like, and a suggestion means, like, get the fuck out of my face, like I don’t… You know what I’m saying? This registration is out of control, for this festival…

Danez Smith: U-huh.

Angel Nafis: Lyft is not free.

Danez Smith: Nope. Food is not free…

Angel Nafis: Food is not free.

Danez Smith: Yep.

Angel Nafis: And she was, like, suggested donation 10! And I was, like, first of all, I felt the droplet on my nose.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)


Angel Nafis: So, you’re already too close to me. And then she said, it’s suggested, but was blocking my way in. And I was, like, oh, nothing bad has ever happened to you. That's why this is happening right now.


Angel Nafis: You know nothing bad… because you think you can do anything and nothing will happen after that. You know when you're, like, did I do the… It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure, but you didn’t choose this shit, and now you’re, like, out here. This is actually just sad to me but, I was already making excuses for her about why this was probably okay.

Danez Smith: Why do we do that, why do we…

Angel Nafis: I was like, I guess it is a lot of us…

Danez Smith: You know the real tea?

Angel Nafis: Maybe she has been sitting here…

Danez Smith: …some of us gave her money. And we’re in the process of paying at the…

Angel Nafis: Also, n***, back to suggested.

Danez Smith: Back to… words mean things! I wore this shirt.

Angel Nafis: Words mean things. So this sounds like this was just, like, just a normal trifling situation. But it was more. It felt, like, fiction, like, this is… Cause she was so close to my face and then she was so close to the face of the person behind me. And I'm interested a lot in this as, like, a writer, and a lot of my poems are about this, but it's not just, like, what gets said to you, but it's sometimes the weird afterlife and how you metabolize the shit that…is said.

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Angel Nafis: And I was, like, walking towards the window after that shit, and stood there and was, like, I could feel the work still happening of the shit that was just… Like, you know, you're wearing it.

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Angel Nafis: And I was sitting by the window, and I was like, did this bitch just become a part of me because she said some fucked up shit….

Danez Smith: Yeah, now she’s, like, in your history.

Angel Nafis: And then I was, like, if you look at my cell, is this bitch there? And then…

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: Like, mapped onto my genetic code for generations to come.

Danez Smith: The suggested protein is… oh, that was a nerd joke, I’m sorry.

Angel Nafis: So that. That idea where you’re, like… On a surface level, you’re like, I can tell the fire alarm has been pulled, you see your people also… processing. And then once we got to the window, it was, like, bitch! Like, we were unsure, like, u-u-uh. And once we got to the window, we were, like, are we gonna kill somebody?

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: Like, is someone gonna die tonight? And then…

Franny Choi: Pocket knife, already out.

Angel Nafis: And even then after that, we start to put it away, cause, like, that’s your job or whatever. It’s like an internship you didn’t ask for…

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: You start to put it away..  and then it was, like… another homie was by the door and I heard her saying… to another person… who had called her out and was like, you know, you’re being aggressive with people coming in, and she was, like, well, they yelled at me, and they told me it was too much. I was, like, (SCREAMING, GALLOPING AWAY SOUND).

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)


Angel Nafis: You just gonna reinvent the whole history, bitch?

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: So that's the AWP is, like, the reinvention of some shit that just happened. Yeah.

Franny Choi: It’s like a particular kind of betrayal to walk into a space and be, like, this is my space with my friends…and then for a white woman to be at the door being, like, no it's not. This is my space.

Danez Smith: Yeah…

Franny Choi: You are a guest in this room. You know, that's, like, a particular kind of…

Danez Smith: Bullshit?

Franny Choi: Ownership of… (LAUGHING) That’s the word I was looking for.

Angel Nafis: I do wanna say though, like, I know that we’re talking on the show and all that, but I do think that what sticks with me and what will stay with me isn’t that some fuck shit happened, cause, truly, LOL. But it is that.. then when she try to come, like, apologize, even Fati, like, just… It was like they knew what was happening and they just swooped in and became a barricade and.. I think that’s really more.. even the AWP thing. It’s not the fuck shit but...

Franny Choi: It’s like friends appearing at your side to protect you.

Angel Nafis: As if they are in your brain, like… the Spidey sense, like, oh oh, fuck shit.

Danez Smith: Yeah.


Angel Nafis: And she just appeared and was, like, ah-ah-ah, you don’t have shit to say to her, I was like, oh!?


Angel Nafis: So perhaps that. The homies knowing when you don’t even know. I didn’t even know it was fucked up till there was a barricade between....

Danez Smith: Let the story never be about who attacks but who protected.

Franny Choi: Yes.

Angel Nafis: Yeah.


Franny Choi: On that note, Angel, would you like to read us one more poem? Before you go?

Angel Nafis: I sure would. Oh, I’m sitting on it.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: How is everybody doing by the way, we’ve been talking and…


Angel Nafis: … talking shit and…it’s cold and… Are people warm?


Angel Nafis: OK. I love an honest mob. My whole, like, thing is, like, Frank Ocean and Frank O’Hara.


Angel Nafis: And I’ve been thinking of getting a shirt that just says “My Franks, My Franks, My Franks.”


Angel Nafis: And sometimes I’m, like, what else is there. So I wrote this poem after Frank Ocean. It’s not really after him… it’s just, I was listening to a song. And I wrote this poem.




After Frank Ocean.


I’ve rediscovered weed again

and it is good again

Just in time for spring

creeping up the five floors to crowd my

eight windows

Better than a cocktail I think

but not as good as brushing my own


Or any bridge on blond 

I’ll admit it

to you here

thin little poem

black strip of witness

down this vast whatever

I miss being nineteen

but I would never go back

to that muddy river

Hole in the paddle boat

the only skylight some stars

I made up

Certainly I am the shore

the dawn

So, I like to smoke

at the edge of my bed

in front

of the floor-length mirror

trimmed in wood

and watch the white plume

exit to my parted lips

For once, I notice my own


alone as I am

I think to myself

I am twenty-nine

Just look at my

brown little knees

I should get a tattoo

right beneath my collar bone

I’m glad it’s Friday


while I finish these dishes

I’m gonna lean all in to

a song

that deserves me.


Danez Smith: Angel Nafis everybody…


Danez Smith: So if you listen to our podcast, I know you all listen to VS, like, in the real world.


Danez Smith: If you don’t, until further notice we are on iTunes and Soundcloud, wherever you find your podcasts…

Franny Choi: The NPR One app. Which makes me feel fancy to say.

Danez Smith: NPR One?

Franny Choi: I feel like I should be, like, saying ads for NatureBox when I say the NPR One app.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) So if you listen to our podcast, you know we always play a little game at the end of the joint. And it would be no different here at the live show. And so we’re gonna invite Angel and Hanif back to the stage, really really quick…


Danez Smith: …to play a little adapted version. So usually we play this game called This vs. That in which we pit two things against each other, we’re our writers can decide who wins in a fight. Today we’re gonna do a little modified version of that, at Eloise’s suggestion, we’re gonna play a version of The Newlywed Game.

Angel Nafis: I don’t know what that is.

Danez Smith: You’ve never seen The Newlywed Game?

Hanif Abdurraqib: It means we are literally married.

Danez Smith: The Newlywed Game was this joint where, like, they would send couples around and they’d be, like, share it. And we ask Michael what his favorite color is. What did you say? I said blue. And he says green, and then, you know…

Franny Choi: Tragedy.

Danez Smith: ...get a divorce, cause that’s how you learn that you don’t know shit.

Angel Nafis: I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.

Danez Smith: So we’re gonna give you some things, and they’re gonna decide what the other one would pick.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Oh my god.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: Never… this is my first time meeting Angel Nafis.

Angel Nafis: Yeah, hello.


Hanif Abdurraqib: Good evening.

Angel Nafis: As-Salaam-Alaikum, my dear, I don’t know what’s happening.


Hanif Abdurraqib: We could be related…

Angel Nafis: We likely are.

Hanif Abdurraqib: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: It was a wild time for my dad in the sixties, and so…

Danez Smith: So, Angel, you got something? OK. So this one… we’re gonna ask Angel to guess what Hanif would say…

Angel Nafis: Yikes.

Hanif Abdurraqib: … at this young joint right here…

Franny Choi: The situation.

Danez Smith: The options are…

Hanif Abdurraqib: Boom.

Danez Smith: … a lifetime of bad Q&As. Or a lifetime of bad R&B covers.

Angel Nafis: Aaarghhhh….

Hanif Abdurraqib: Am I not allowed to give any commentary?

Danez Smith: Nope.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Pfoof.

Angel Nafis: You know!

Danez Smith: You will be allowed to explain the answer.

Angel Nafis: I will say this: Hanif loves some things that everyone else thinks are bad.

Danez Smith: OK.

Franny Choi: What a thing to say about a friend, you know.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: This is my friend, he has terrible opinions…

Angel Nafis: Nooo… hold up, I think part of his kink is, like, everyone…


Angel Nafis: (SHRIEKING) I think, I think, I think sometimes he, like, has Twitter to be, like, you know what, everyone else, like, hates that I, like… let me talk about that one thing lovingly. So I think I’m gonna say… No one likes bad Q&As. No one.

Hanif Abdurraqib: And yet.

Angel Nafis: Literally no one.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: But Hanif loves some, like, questionable music.


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) Oooooooooh!!!

Angel Nafis: You also love great music. But I think you also have a soft spot for people trying.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) Wow!!!

Angel Nafis: I think he might have a soft spot for people trying to sing. But not for people asking questions that are actually just comments.

Danez Smith: OK.

Franny Choi: Wow.

Danez Smith: OK.

Franny Choi: So you’re gonna go with…  bad R&B covers.

Angel Nafis: I’m…I’m… probably wrong, but that’s just my… that’s how the math worked out.

Danez Smith: Alright. Hanif, which life would you like to sentence yourself to.

Hanif Abdurraqib: I’ve been on book tour since January, and it feels like I’ve already got the lifetime of bad Q&As, so…

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: Yikes.

Hanif Abdurraqib: So I guess… I would just continue along that path that God has made for me.


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: Hanif Abdurraqib, everyone, will take your terrible questions.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. Right now. I’m sure they are all more like comments.

Franny Choi: Alright. This is for Angel Nafis.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Oh no…

Franny Choi: The two options are, the combo of National Book Award, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize vs. twenty years of reliably, constantly, amazing sex.


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)


Hanif Abdurraqib: Wait, wait, wait. So wait, I’m gonna pose a question I was posed downstairs, can you have good sex sometimes? Like is it a roll the dice? You might have sex… and it might be good?

Danez Smith: Yes.

Franny Choi: It’s just your regular…  your current sex life, your…

Danez Smith: Neither one of these means the opposite thing can’t happen, like, you can have twenty years of good sex and fuck around with that National Book Award.

Hanif Abdurraqib: But the guaranteed award…

Franny Choi: But the guarantee…

Hanif Abdurraqib: You know… Sometimes you roll the dice on sex, you know, makes it…


Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: You got bad sex, you come up next to a Pulitzer, you know?


Hanif Abdurraqib: Surely it is a multi-use trophy.


Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (CHEERING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: Angel, listen. So, your sex life remains as it is, right.

Angel Nafis: Listen, don’t be fooled…

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: This young lady over here might look like Polly Pocket, but…


Danez Smith: She getting that Polly Pocket. (LAUGHING)


Angel Nafis: She’s out here.

Hanif Abdurraqib: This is not the way I want to find out that Shira is a freak and yet…

Franny Choi: And yet here we are.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Given the way Shira is looking at me, I’m gonna go with the awards, though, yeah.

Franny Choi: Wow!

Angel Nafis: Alright you guys, I don’t know if it’s these drinks I had, I don’t quite understand what’s happening. I really… I really don’t… the committee inside of me is meeting right now to figure out..

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: Good sex comes with one of them too.

Franny Choi: True.

Angel Nafis: I guess if I’m gonna get, like, a little woo-woo for absolutely no reason…

Hanif Abdurraqib: Oh, boy.

Angel Nafis: When I think of all the poets I fuck, like, any writer I fuck, I don’t know… Like, who won anything. Like, who knows…

Hanif Abdurraqib: But you get to keep your…


Angel Nafis: No offense, boo, but, like, you have all the facts so you can’t talk.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: I’m talking about all the regular n**** in the crowd, like, who won anything, I don’t know!

Hanif Abdurraqib: You get to keep your current sex life, my n***, you get three free awards.

Angel Nafis: OK! Look, then that’s not versus. Versus means one or the other. Like, I think you guys are being a little soft.

Franny Choi: Oooooh!


Franny Choi: She called us soft.

Danez Smith: OK, OK, you want us to go hard, so OK, like…

Hanif Abdurraqib: So you don’t… so that… if you win those prizes you have bad sex.

Danez Smith: You are always just short of none. Yeah.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Well, then take the, take the…

Franny Choi: That’s a completely different question.

Angel Nafis: Just short of not…

Danez Smith: I know it’s a different question but she said we were soft. So now we hard. Or maybe not hard.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Or maybe not. Or maybe not.

Franny Choi: Maybe not hard.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Or maybe never hard again.

Danez Smith: Maybe even the dildo goes off, yo…

Franny Choi: (GASPING)

Angel Nafis: Listen.

Hanif Abdurraqib: I change my answer then. I think Angel would help herself to the twenty years.. But what happens after twenty years?

Angel Nafis: I don’t know. That’s a bigger question because…

Hanif Abdurraqib: That’s a bigger… Angel still young.

Danez Smith: We’re all around the age were twenty years from now, we might be winding down, you know, like…

Angel Nafis: Nooooo….

Franny Choi: We’re just hitting our peak…

Danez Smith: I’m a freak but I might be a birthday, Christmas, Easter type n***, like, in twenty years. (LAUGHING)   

Angel Nafis: Can I be real? And I hate to… I don’t know if I should say this on a podcast, cause judges is out here. Judges is literally in the audience, perhaps. So truly vote for your girl, 20 20, Pulitzer or whatever. But. I don’t totally care about… I do care about sex. You know, like, that can’t be a perhaps… But I do know that, like, I just want, like, good insurance and to able to get my cavities filled when I need to and, like, have a crib. So… I don’t think Stephen King that n*** has a Pulitzer and he top dog.

Hanif Abdurraqib: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: You see what I’m saying?

Hanif Abdurraqib: But is Stephen King having twenty years of good sex?

Angel Nafis: Certainly…

Hanif Abdurraqib: Who can say, truly.

Franny Choi: Who can say, who can say.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Are any of us having good sex. Who truly can say other than me? I’m joking…


Angel Nafis: I choose twenty years of good sex.

Franny Choi: Sorry, you heard it here first, y’all.


Angel Nafis: I just do. Thank you guys, good night. No…

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: (LAUGHING) I love that Angel got, like, very in-depth and think-piece-y, like, this is not what versus means if you really think about the etymology of the word.

Angel Nafis: It isn’t. Hanif was like, one or the other, I came up with, like, girl, it’s whatever you choose.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: You can have it all… Like some Oprah shit. Like, what!?

Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah, I did feel a little… I felt marginalized.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)


Angel Nafis: Finally, Hanif speaks. (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: Tonight is the night I felt deeply marginalized.

Danez Smith: Everybody please give a huge round of applause… for Angel and Hanif.

Franny Choi: For Hanif Abdurraqib and Angel Nafis.


Danez Smith: Good sex and book awards for both, y’all.

Franny Choi: Yes.

Danez Smith: So we’re about to get out of here, y’all. Um, so I’d like to do a couple quick thank yous, do y’all wanna thank anybody? Anything? That y’all just wanna give a shout-out to?

Franny Choi: Anything in the universe.

Angel Nafis: Man. What’s great is to look out and see somebody, like, people that I love.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah…

Angel Nafis: It’s, like, I would literally end a life for Kaveh.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: And it’s not, like, relevant. I say that and he’s, like, it hasn’t gotten there. Like, we don’t… it’s not required, I’m, like, are you sure?

Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah.

Angel Nafis: Cause I can’t wait.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. I haven’t been in a fight in, like, ten years and would fight, like, everyone in the front row…

Angel Nafis: Your greatest loved ones.

Hanif Abdurraqib: Like, if someone even, like, threatened sam sax with, like, a bad meal.. I would fight them.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)


Hanif Abdurraqib: Like, here’s a mediocre sandwich for you, sam sax, I’d be like… oh, that’s it. That’s enough. I’ve had enough…

Angel Nafis: Interesting that you should say that. Cause I’m ready to end a life.


Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Angel Nafis: And it can even be people that…. like.. haven’t texted back. Is there… Or, like, haven’t emailed and I’m still just, like, I’ll still fucking kill my own father for you to not…

Hanif Abdurraqib: Like, the inbox is heavy with unreads from Clint Smith and yet…

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) And yet! Say the wrong thing...

Hanif Abdurraqib: Say the wrong thing to this n***…

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Hanif Abdurraqib: I won’t respond to the email, but I will go to prison.

Angel Nafis: Literally…

Hanif Abdurraqib: Literally, I won’t respond to an email.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: They got decent wifi.

Hanif Abdurraqib: No, thank you all, it’s so great to see you, thank you for coming out for this.

Danez Smith: Thank you all.


Franny Choi: We also just wanna thank the Poetry Foundation, especially our hero Ydalmi Noriega, make some noise for her.

Danez Smith: Wooooooooh!

Franny Choi: We wanna thank Postloudness, we wanna thank Fly Bar, and our producer Daniel Kisslinger, make some noise for Daniel.

Danez Smith: Woooooooh!

Franny Choi: And thank all of y’all for being here…

Danez Smith: Give it up for yourself, y’all, give it up for yourself, high-five somebody next to you, goddamnit. You are out at AWP in the cold at midnight. Please make sure to subscribe to VS at Soundcloud, on iTunes…

Danez Smith: NPR One… And all those other things.

Franny Choi: So fancy.

Danez Smith: Make sure you follow us on social media, @VSThePodcast, on Twitter and Facebook. Without that, please, eat up the rest of the food, drink the rest of that free Sangria, please get home safe. Please have a good rest of the AWP…

Franny Choi: Have a beautiful night! You’re all wonderful.

Danez Smith: Thank you.




VS gets live at AWP, where Danez and Franny hosted a packed show featuring the magnificent Hanif Abdurraqib and Angel Nafis. Hear some poems, some nipple-related discussion,and some rooftop giggles on this episode, recorded in front of a live audience on March 8th, 2018.

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