by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib
Photo by Marcus Jackson
Workshop Title: Unfair
Ask your students, “Do you think life is unfair? Why?” Give your students time to discuss the question and answers with one another.
Read “If Life Is As Short As Our Ancestors Insist It Is, Why Isn’t Everything I Want Already At My Feet” by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib. Tell them to focus on the reason why he believes that life is – at least to him – unfair, and have them discuss the parts of the poem in which he explains why. You may also want them to pay attention to the words he uses, particularly “if,” “could,” and “would,” and how those words contribute to his feelings of disappointment and resignation.
Have your students write a poem in the same style as Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s, one in which they write a poem that simply addresses how and why life is – at least to them – unfair.
When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another.
Area of Focus: Structure (Syntax)
If your students are not aware of how the “structure’ of a poem affects its meaning – particularly the syntactical elements – review the introductory lesson.
Read “If Life Is As Short As Our Ancestors Insist It Is, Why Isn’t Everything I Want Already At My Feet” by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib. Then discuss the speaker’s feelings, the overall tone of the poem, and what contributes to the tone.
Tell the students to analyze the poem, particularly the syntax of it and how the syntactical structures in the poem contribute to the speaker’s feelings of “resignation.” Tell the students to pay attention to more than just the length of the sentences; they should pay attention to the repetition of certain types of words, parts of speech, etc. The students may work in the following document. Directions are provided at the top of the page.
When they are done, have them share their responses. Then show them the following sample paragraph that focuses on the poem’s syntax.
If you want to show them a more robust analysis of the poem, you may share the exemplar essay.
- Structure (Syntax)
- Death / Grief
- Figurative Language
- Selection of Detail
- Structure (Syntax)