Fuck Lectures About Sonnets: On Noor Hindi

By | 1 September 2023

The rhythmic consistency of line 8 is disrupted by the central ‘dead,’ which draws an extra beat and an extra heavy stress, making the rhythm sag at the centre. Death’s gravitational pull stalls the line. The end-heavy, full-stopped ‘sad’ and ‘day’ compound this sense of drag. This downward motion continues in line ten, where the symmetrical, five-beat rhythm of ‘I wish Jessica’ is trebled across the line:

ˇ  ˇ        /    ˇ ˇ|  ˇ        ˇ           /     ˇ   \ |   ˇ    ˇ    /    ˇ     \  |
I wish Jessica would stop texting me Happy Ramadan.

(line 10)

This consistency is undercut by the sharp shift that happens at line 11:

ˇ  /      |  ˇ    ˇ   / ˇ  ˇ ¶ |  ˇ       ˇ   ˇ       ˇ    /   |   ˇ ˇ   ˇ   /     |  ˇ      ˇ       /   |
I know I’m American because when I walk into a room something dies.

/        ˇ   ˇ   |   ˇ  ˇ   /     |  ˇ     ˇ   /   ˇ |     ˇ      ˇ       /       |   /   |  ˇ   ˇ     /      |
Metaphors about death are for poets who think ghosts care about sound.

(lines 11–12)

Here, ‘I’m American’ elbows its way into the line, collecting extra room with the breath drawn before the following ‘when I walk into a room something dies.’ It is at odds with the earlier crowding of ‘Palestinians’ in line 5, which appeared compressed and bunched up at the end of the line. The busied rhythm constricts and contracts, in tandem with the tension between subject positions of ‘Palestinian’ and ‘American.’ The second half of this line falls into an anapaestic rhythm, reinforcing the spatial and rhythmic disruption of the ‘American’ even further. This beat continues into line 12, though the line is again crowded, this time with the single-beat foot of ‘care’ disrupting the otherwise insistent baseline.

This patterning is upended in lines 13–14, where the rhythm shifts in pairs and changes pace, again. Caesura separates the first foot of both lines. They each denote a future moment – ’when I die,’ and ‘one day.’ The consonant ‘d’ sounds are mirrored here, tying the moments in tandem:

 ˇ        \   / ¶ | ˇ  /    ˇ      | ˇ    /       ˇ   | ˇ  /  ˇ |
When I die, I promise to haunt you forever.

 /        \ ¶ | ˇ    /     |  ˇ  /  |  ˇ      /    | ˇ    /   |   ˇ   /        ˇ     |
One day, I’ll write about the flowers like we own them.

(lines 13–14)

Following the caesura, each line offers a patterning of sound, but denies consistency. A loosely amphibrachic rhythm is picked up in line 13, followed by an iambic echo in the final line.

Despite the poem’s lack of metrical structure, a rhythmic throughline persists, drawing the reader in when sounded out. But it is troubled and buckled by deviations in pattern, end-stopped lines, and a pulling down on the consistent beat. These techniques do not break the rhythm, but at times stall and suspend it. The effect is a sense of temporal drag which permeates the poem.

I coin the term ‘temporal drag’ here to try and explain the literary techniques which disrupt our expectations of movement in a poem. Shifting tense, a belated volta, or a lethargic rhythm can create this sense. In Terrance Hayes’s American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin, for example, the insistent cycle of the same title across 75 poems creates temporal drag. In moments where poetic projection is frustrated, this idea of temporal drag might offer a way of understanding how time and patterns are doctored, but not broken. Sometimes lagging, sometimes driving forward, temporal drag creates a dual sense of stasis and circularity. In Hindi’s poem, temporal drag is evoked when the rhythm requires us to rush through the ‘Palestinians’ in line 5, but linger over and pause on the ‘American’ in line 11. A conversational and consistent rhythm very much exists across the verse, but is jagged and truncated throughout.


‘Fuck Your Lecture on Craft’ sets its tone firmly in its titular breath, the ‘fuck you’ framing the poetic voice as one of confrontation and castigation. The poem builds on this acerbic tone with a piling up of archly anti-poetic language. Each line reads as a statement of fact, with consistent full stops that parade as prosaic: ‘Colonizers write about flowers.’ (line 1), while ‘Metaphors about death are for poets who think ghosts care about sound.’ (line 5). The moon and flowers are described as ‘so beautiful’ (lines 6–7); also statements, but abstracted symbols without any metaphoric vehicle. The strained and almost-comical ‘I wish Jessica would stop texting me Happy Ramadan’ adds a dry exasperation to the verse (line 10).

The poem prioritises these matter-of-fact statements over any lyric embellishment. The language is stripped back, sitting somewhere between scarcity and everyday speech. Even clear depictions of emotion seem to nod at feeling, while holding it at a distance. ‘I pick flowers for my dead father when I’m sad’ (line 8) sees the sadness kept at arm’s length by the temporal distance of ‘when.’ In this sense, the poem rallies against the kinds of voices most often discussed in lectures on craft. Rather than a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, this is a poetic refusal, a register uninterested in abstract flowery language. Repetition, too, grates against expectations of ‘good’ poetry, with the doubling of the ‘moon,’ ‘flowers,’ and ‘beauty.’ But this resistance to poetics is betrayed by the poem’s self-consciousness. ‘Fuck Your Lecture on Craft’, but I will write a poem. ‘Fuck Your Lecture on Craft’, but I will address it to ‘you.’ The relationship between form, reader, and speaker is fraught with uncertainties and second-guesses. The speaker ‘wants to be like those poets who care about the moon’ (line 4) but chastises the poets ‘who think ghosts care about sound’ (line 12), a contradiction heightened using a poem as a vehicle for this message.


While the poem’s end-stopped lines and anti-poetic language verge on prosaic, parts of Hindi’s poem are located in a firmly poetic space – what George Wright calls the lyric tense, ‘a realm outside our normal conscious time world’ (565). The lyric tense is invoked where a simple present verb is used, unlinked from a specific time of action. Wright points to the ‘unspeechlike’ nature of the simple present. We take it as standard because of its ubiquity in poetry, rather than a reflection of ordinary spoken or written English. When W B Yeats writes ‘I walk through the long schoolroom questioning,’ and Thom Gunn writes ‘I walk the floor, read, watch a cop show, drink,’ and Juan Felipe Herrera writes ‘I walk back – nowhere, / under moonlight,’ it seems standard stuff: the poems’ speakers walk, presently. But this is a kind of poetic editorialisation of ‘I am walking,’ the phrase we would normally associate with a present action, described as it is happening.

This is not to imply the simple present is never used outside of poetry. But when it is, it is usually paired with a temporal qualifier: ‘I walk often,’ or ‘I walk every Tuesday.’ Without this temporal context, ‘I walk’ suspends the action in a kind of perpetuity, and it is in this space that the lyric tense is realised. Temporal drag is tied to this suspension. Jonathan Culler focuses on this iterability in Theory of the Lyric: pointing to both the ‘serial states’ and ‘gnomic character’ that the lyric tense might invoke (289). We see both of these in the opening line of Hindi’s poem. ‘Colonizers write about flowers’ points to regularity, and gestures (provocatively) towards a wider truth. The line has the same habituality as something like ‘I drink coffee.’ Though the latter has none of Hindi’s poetic richness, both lines suggest a ritual behaviour. When this action happens, it’s usually in this particular way. When I drink, it’s coffee; when they write, it’s about flowers. But it also suggests something of a defining characteristic, blurring the lines between what one is and what one does. ‘I drink coffee’ doesn’t suggest I never have juice or tea, but that my defining preference is coffee, as a matter of principle. Colonisers may at times write on other topics, but their defining subject matter is flowers.

‘Fuck Your Lecture on Craft’ also pairs the lyric tense with the continuous present, layering a sense of iterability. ‘I tell you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks / seconds before becoming daisies’ (lines 2–3) casts the telling in a cycle of tragic anecdote. ‘Seconds before’ time stamps the line, which seems to locate the facts the speaker recounts in, rather than outside of, time. But this is a knotty way to link ‘children throwing rocks’ and ‘children becoming daisies.’ They appear as both repeated actions, ones that are happening in the here and now; suspended in perpetuity. So, while the lyric tense of ‘tell you’ and the temporal context of ‘seconds before’ suggests that a past action is being recounted, the continuous present tense insists on back- and forward- looking repetition.1 This tension exacerbates the temporal drag that haunts the poem.

Elsewhere, the lyric tense locates the verse outside of time. In line 5, ‘Palestinians don’t see the moon from jail cells and prisons’ unlinks the Palestinians from any concrete time. The conditions are cast as perpetual, rather than fleeting: Palestinians both never see the moon (a persistent state of lack) and are physically and lyrically trapped in the circumstances that prevent them from seeing it (jail cells and prisons). Both elements are suspended, taking on a similar characteristic quality to the ‘Colonizers’ who ‘write about flowers.’

  1. Word choice matters here. Proximity is not synonymous with causation, and here it works to abstract the agency in this scene. The phrase ‘seconds before’ brings to mind the passive headlines which often distance Israeli forces from Palestinian deaths. This approach is ubiquitous. A few examples from the BBC, pulled at random: 19 January 2023: ‘Palestinian teacher shot while giving first aid to militant;’ 30 November 2022: ‘Five Palestinian men killed in West Bank violence;’ 17 June 2022: ‘Three Palestinian militants killed amid West Bank clashes with Israeli troops.’ In all reports, IDF soldiers killed the Palestinians.
This entry was posted in ESSAYS, SCHOLARLY and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Related work:

Comments are closed.