Fuck Lectures About Sonnets: On Noor Hindi

By | 1 September 2023

Where time appears in more concrete terms in the verse, it serves to complicate, rather than clarify. Take lines 8–9: ‘I pick flowers for my dead father when I’m sad. / He watches Al Jazeera all day.’ The temporal contexts of ‘when I’m sad’ and ‘all day’ qualify the simple present tense, much like ‘I walk often’ or ‘I walk every Tuesday.’ But the tension of the dead father watching TV in the present tense buckles the matter-of-fact realism of the verse. This buckling undermines narrative continuity, destabilising and undermining the time stamps of ‘when I’m sad’ and ‘all day’ (Culler 289). Just as we read the rhythm in contrapuntal terms, we can understand the contradictory layers of time existing alongside and against each other.

The poem’s final two lines draw forward, shifting the verse from the insistent present to a future-looking tense for the first time. ‘When I die, I promise to haunt you forever’ runs parallel to the promise that ‘One day, I’ll write about the flowers like we own them.’ This rhetorical pairing offers a poignant subversion: these futures are both inextricable and mutually exclusive. The suggested interdependency renders this moment impossible or, at least, not possible in our speaker’s conceivable future tense. These tensions echo wider, existential tensions within Palestine’s liberatory politics – the enduring and continuous nature of resistance, paired with the inconceivability of a free Palestine under current global structures.


Metaphor, as a cornerstone of any lecture on craft, sits in a knotty in-between in Hindi’s poem. The distrust of poetic allusion projected in ‘Fuck Your Lecture on Craft’ is frustrated by metaphor’s gravitational pull, as the verse rejects and returns to language of allusion. We see this complication in lines 2–3: ‘I tell you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks / seconds before becoming daisies.’ Here, the verse does an about-turn on the very things it seems to rally against – writing about flowers, and metaphors about death. Daisies become a heavily loaded metaphorical vehicle despite the poem’s apparent rejection of the practice. Compounding and complicating the tension of writing ‘about flowers,’ the image of the children ‘throwing rocks’ is also deeply loaded. These lines evoke the powerful, recognisable image of 14-year-old Faris Odeh, who was killed by Israeli troops during the Second Intifada after being photographed throwing a stone at a tank. This link is both specific and highly ritualistic. Stone-throwing is a well-known symbolic tactic on the ground in Palestine, and the photograph crystallises the David and Goliath connotations that come with the practice. In one reading, we can understand Hindi’s metaphor as layering resistance and martyrdom into the image of the children and daisies in an elegiac address to Palestinian ṣumūd. But when read in conversation with the poem’s distrust of metaphor, the image becomes uncomfortably sanitised. In their poetic martyrdom, the children’s deaths are rid of bloodshed, reduced to symbolic, but ambiguous, flowers. Why name ‘Jessica,’ and not Faris? The metaphor holds these tensions in place, reckoning with how a poem could ever capture the experience of those ‘in jail cells and prisons.’ Hindi’s poem registers the paradox, and tries it anyway, reckoning with both the power and pitfalls in poeticising Palestinian death.

‘Fuck Your Lecture on Craft’ is heavy with the ghosts that inhabit it. The ghosts of other poems and poets, the ghosts of the father, of the ambiguous Jessica, of the Palestinian children, of Faris Odeh. The ghost of the sonnet form lives within the poem’s 14 lines, volta, and preoccupation with questions of craft. The anti-poetic, stripped back language requires the reader to ‘read in,’ to make meaning by identifying these ghosts, giving them shape, and attempting to draw the connections between them.

Reading in: the lecture itself

Reading contrapuntally, these internal contradictions shore up the instability of the poem’s proposed social arrangement between craft, classroom, and poems. There is, in fact, a deep preoccupation with craft here. But this does not negate the ‘fuck you’ of the poem’s opening breath. The weight of the speaker’s criticism is directed towards the lecture, rather than toward craft as a standalone idea.

‘Fuck Your Lecture on Craft’ addresses the literary eco-structures which privilege particular voices and ways of reading. The MFA programme in America, in Hindi’s words, is ‘built for cis straight white men.’ As a result, works by others are chronically under- or reductively read. This treats the identity of the poet or poem as singular and consumable. Hindi’s poem interrogates both this approach to reading, and the speaker’s culpability in this dialogue.

The poem exists in the capacious space of the internet, but it is also published in Poetry magazine. This publication cannot be easily extricated from lectures and craft, with its reputation for publishing now-canonical works. Hindi’s inclusion in Poetry brings her work onto the same pages as T S Eliot, W B Yeats, William Carlos Williams, and many other triple-barrelled names that can be categorised as famous white male poets. In an essay for Gay Mag, Hindi considers her own position in relation to the lecture on craft:

I’m in an MFA program for poetry where I sit in predominantly white classrooms and pretend to know answers to questions. I try to take up space as a Muslim woman. As a queer Muslim woman. As a queer Palestinian American Muslim Woman.

How does one leverage the personal in service of the political, without being reduced to a narrative of singular identity? The poem’s well-crafted anti-craft lyric reveals and magnifies this concern with the mutually exclusive, while questions of visibility and obscuration are intensified and complicated by the parallel contradictions in form and content.

The poem’s focus on the identities of ‘Palestinian’ and ‘American’ (and those which straddle both) speaks to an anxiety about the utility of these categories in a liberatory politics. In Hindi’s own words: ‘I am still trying to reconcile my identities. My multiple displacements. The difficulty of seeing (and unseeing); the desire to be seen (and unseen).’ ‘Fuck Your Lecture on Craft’ uses the sonnet’s renovative framework as a space for this process of reconciliation. Its existential questions about the role of craft parallel questions about Hindi’s own position in relation to the lecture and the coloniser.

The anti-poetic language and the emphatic title appear to cement the speaker’s position as clearly defined against the colonisers, the poets, and the reader. But what initially appears as a statement of opposition becomes murky as the poem continues. While the speaker at first appears to chastise those who ‘write about flowers,’ they reflect on how ‘beautiful’ the flowers are in line 7, and go on to ‘pick flowers’ in line 8. In the final line of the poem, the speaker promises: ‘One day, I’ll write about the flowers like we own them.’ These same contradictions play out when the speaker distances themselves from ‘those poets who care about the moon,’ noting: ‘Palestinians don’t see the moon from jail calls and prisons’ (line 5) before reflecting on ‘how beautiful’ the moon is (line 6). ‘My People’ from the poem’s title are Palestinians, but line 11 sees a sharp turn as the speaker announces: ‘I know I’m American.’ The sonnet’s volta is deployed here to reveal and reckon with the culpability that comes with a focus on identity.

It is in these shifts that the speaker’s complicated relationship with identity, politics, and poetry emerges. They are at once aligned with the Palestinians, the poets, the colonisers, and the reader, in a conflicting overlap of culpability and address. The speaker tells ‘you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks,’ and they promise ‘to haunt you forever.’ The ‘you’ being addressed here is the reader, the critic, the coloniser, the institution. It is also the very form Hindi is writing within. Encapsulating both person and form, Hindi’s lyrics contains multitudes, haunting the very sonnet it exists within and against.

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