The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 left behind both physical and emotional destruction. Using forms of repetition, as well as the lowercase, Suheir Hammad is able to share a personal experience of the anxiety and confusion this destruction caused in her poem, “First Writing Since.”
Hammad uses repetition often and with purpose to emphasize certain points within her poem. This is particularly noticeable within the first few stanzas. One of the most eye catching examples is the fifth stanza, where Hammad writes “i do not know how bad a life has to break in order to kill. i have never been so hungry that i willed hunger, i have never been so angry as to want to control a gun over a pen,” (1). Here, Hammad uses repetitive phrases in order to emphasize her feelings of confusion on the recent tragedy. However, while repetition can often work to reinforce, this use makes it seem as though the speaker herself is trying to rationalize and understand what has occurred. In addition, while the use of the word “i” to start each line is eye catching in itself, what makes the repetition even more apparent is the choice to make the word I lowercase. By using “i” instead of “I”, Hammad makes the speaker both physically smaller as well as much weaker.
Hammad’s repetition creates a sense of assertiveness within her poem and yet her choice to use the lowercase contradicts this. This all works to create to the sense of confusion and anxiety seen throughout the poem. In terms of format, the lines are broken and the stanzas are formatted unconventionally. The choice to make identifying words lowercase simply adds to the lack of conventionality. In fact, the entire poem seems to express the speaker’s confusion over what has just happened, mixed with apprehension for what is to come and a loss or contradiction of identities through it all. As she says, “i have never felt less american and more new yorker” (4). B1.
Hammad, Suheir. “First Writing Since.” In Motion Magazine, 7 Nov. 2001.