Doing Their Part

Aerial View of the Twin Towers

I was four years old when the twin towers fell. I remember sitting on the couch in my TV room watching my father cry while he watched the newscasters cry. He lost a good friend in the attack. He’d get depressed in the weeks that followed, which made me sad, which made him want to cheer me up, which cheered him up. I didn’t know it, but I was doing my part.

Suheir Hammad doesn’t tell the reader how old she was or where she was in First Writing Since, a poem recounting her thoughts and emotions during the days following the 9/11 attacks. But Hammad does discreetly talk about her ‘part’, which comes to her in the first stanza of the fifth section. This stanza uses the repetition of the phrase “one more person” on its first and third lines to convey a tone of anger and frustration from Hammad, and suggests her role is to contain that anger.

Although it is not written in the text, the “one more person” lines easily complete themselves in the mind of the reader with, ‘and i swear i’ll…’, or a similar declaration. This aura of anger is aided by line 5.2, which replaces “person” with “motherfucker” when the individual in question expresses doubt of Hammad’s family’s integrity.

Used in this way, the phrase “one more person” typically implies that the speaker is daring the offenders to continue and wanting an excuse to release their anger. However, this stanza’s structure suggests the opposite. The repetition of “one more person” doesn’t actually begin until line 5.3; lines 5.1 and 5.2 use the phrases “one more person” and “one more motherfucker” respectively, which conveys an escalation of aggression. The de-escalation back to “one more person”, a phrase said twice in 5.3, suggests that Hammad fights to keep her anger at bay rather than searching for an excuse to release it.

This contradicts her statement in line 5.4, where she denies that she represents a people. Despite this statement, her actions and work to restrain her anger suggest she understands that, at this moment, she does represent a people. She performs great emotional labor to withstand these accusations, understanding that a harsh reaction on her part would reflect badly on her and anyone who looks anything like her.

A woman holds the Palestinian flag above her head.

She was taking the heat so her brothers didn’t have to. She was doing her part.

Works Cited

Hammad, Suheir. “First Writing Since.” In Motion Magazine , 7 Nov. 2001, www.inmotionmagazine.com/ac/shammad.html.

B1

broken identity: Uses of Repetition and the Lowercase in “First Writing Since”

Broken American Flag

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.

Identity Crisis Image

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.

Works Cited

Hammad, Suheir. “First Writing Since.” In Motion Magazine, 7 Nov. 2001.

“What I Try to Do is Write”: Blog Aspirations and Advice

Quote from Maya Angelou on Writing I have a confession to make. I don’t always think of myself as a particularly creative or vibrant writer. In fact, I consider my writing pretty ordinary. By contrast, I’m in awe of the lyrical and seemingly effortless writing of my friends and colleagues. At times, this assessment of my own writing can stop me in my tracks – it makes writing seem almost impossible and it saps all the joy from the act and art of writing. Does this sound at all familiar to you? I’m guessing it does because I think we’ve all been there – either at some point in time or on a fairly regular basis. But, as Maya Angelou explains, we need to try to write…even if it’s “the most boring and awful stuff.” And so here, on our course blog for ENGL 321, you’ll all engage regularly in this practice of writing. This will be an ongoing and collaborative effort to move past the “boring and awful stuff” in order to find your muse, develop your voice, and expand your ideas.

Throughout the semester, you are responsible for uploading 6 posts (300-400 words each). Each post will offer a polished, focused response to a specific prompt, based on one of the assigned primary or secondary texts (prompts will be posted here as well). These short writing assignments will help you develop ideas and arguments for in-class discussions and upcoming course assignments, while also honing your critical thinking and writing skills. For each week that a blog post is due, you will also upload one comment (150-250 words) in response to a peer’s post. Due dates for blog posts and comments are listed in the course syllabus and with each blog prompt.

Jimmy Fallon

Refer to the blog post and blog comment assignment sheets (uploaded to Moodle) for details on the assignment requirements and how they will be graded. At its core, your blog post should develop an interesting and original response to the assigned prompt. Analysis of the assigned text should be detailed, specific, nuanced, and creative. Let your voice flow freely, but be sure to cite and analyze specific quotes from the assigned text. Focus on developing clear and fluid sentences, effective and creative transitions, and use at least one image or gif to amplify your ideas.

Writers at the 2018 AWP conference

Writers at the 2018 AWP conference

For tips on crafting an effective blog post, see this list of “10 Crucial Points.” And for some great examples of student blog posts for Dickinson English courses, check out Prof. Kersh’s 2017 course, “Writing in and for Digital Environments.” You might also enjoy checking out her students’ projects and their posts on what makes a great blog.

Remember that this is a space in which we’ll be collectively developing clear, vibrant, and analytical writing. In order to do so, we need to keep in mind that writing is a labor, a practice, and an art! It is also the medium through which we will think carefully and critically about Asian American literature and culture.