In Defense of "Moist"

by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

Photo by Marcus Jackson

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: In Defense Of

Step 1

Start by watching the embedded video. When it’s done, ask your students to talk about some of the other words that they find particularly “revolting” or “unsettling.” Then talk about the reasons why those words make them feel the way they do.

Step 2

Read Hanif Willis Abdurraqib’s “In Defense Of Moist.” When you’re done, briefly discuss why the speaker feels the need to come to the defense of the word “moist” and why he feels that way.

Step 3

Say,  “Choose one of the words that was brought up in the conversation earlier, a word that you find particularly gross, unsettling, vulgar, nasty, etc. Then come up with several different reasons as to why that word should be praised. Try to think of the different connotations the word holds, or how other people may feel about the word.” Then give your students time to brainstorm.

Step 4

Have your students write a poem similar in sentiment to “In Defense of ‘Moist’” in which they come to the defense of a word that most people find disgusting.

Step 5

When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another.

The full presentation may be found HERE.

Analytical Lesson

Area of Focus: Various

Step 1

This lesson allows students to analyze various concepts and skills, so it is recommended that you have covered several of the “standalone” lessons before assigning this one. The prominent literary devices & techniques that this particular poem includes are: diction, selection of detail, imagery, figurative language, structure (syntax), and tone.

Step 2

Ask your students what their least favorite word is and have them explain why. One of your students will inevitably say “moist.”

Step 3

Show your students the following video to give them a bit more context as to why the word “moist” is so universally disliked.

Step 4

Read “In Defense Of Moist” by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib aloud to your students. Then have them briefly discuss why or how he comes to the defense of the word.

Step 5

Have your students open the following document and go over the instructions with them. In this assignment, your students are going to have to break down the associations the poet makes with the word moist and examine – through a series of questions – how that association helps convey the poet’s message. Then give your students time to work individually.

Step 6

When your students are done, have them share their responses with one another.

Step 7

If time permits, share the exemplar essay.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Appreciation
  • Children / Youth
  • Community / Culture
  • Death / Grief
  • Family
  • Health / Health Care / Illness
  • History
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism
  • Violence

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Figurative Language
  • Imagery
  • Selection of Detail
  • Structure (Syntax)
  • Tone