Renny’s Review: The Crown Ain’t Worth Much

Paired with live performances, Abdurraqib’s poetry collection leaves readers speechless

Renny Acheson, Columnist

On the first Monday of May in 2016, I attended my first Button Poetry Live. Held monthly, these events unite the Twin Cities poetry community with live performances and friendly competition. The featured poet that night was Hanif Abdurraqib, an Ohio-based poet, essayist, and critic. When his time onstage began to come to an end, he invited anyone in the audience to come up and sit on the stage and listen to his final poem in a more intimate setting. Seizing this opportunity, I sat under the beaming lights and internalized the words of the storyteller, as he read from his 2016 collection, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much.

With rich, vivid metaphors, sharp historical and current pop culture references, and strategic line breaks, Abdurraqib paints a poetic image of childhood, masculinity, blackness, music, grief, and joy. The experience of the text is immediately heightened by Abdurraqib’s live performances, as his poems are titled to appropriately express the essence of each individual story.

I urge you to absorb the changes in his tone of voice in “While Watching the Convenience Store Burn In Baltimore, Poets on the Internet Argue Over Another Article Declaring ‘Poetry is Dead’”  as he eternalizes the experience of death and loss. Consider your own experiences listening and reading to “When I Say That Loving Me is Kind of Like Being a Chicago Bulls Fan,” ( where Abdurraqib develops an image of childhood, insecurity, and nostalgia. This collection is vulnerable, captivating, and intriguing, and will leave the reader enveloped in the past and present world of Hanif Abdurraqib.