If I am judged

If I am punished

If I am dismissed

If I am misunderstood

If I am celebrated

If I am envied

If I am competed with

If I am slandered against

If I am seen

If I am soft

If I am stupid

If I get it

If I surpass

If I intimidate

If I confound

If I confuse

If I’m confused

If I impress

If I delight

If l contradict

If I embarrass

If I’m transparent

If I’m arrogant

If I reproach

If I lamb

If I snake ssss

If I coconut

If I’m crazy

If I’m coo-coo

If I’m weary

If I resist

If I’m easy

If I’m wrong

If I’m wrong — who gives a fuck?


I have to live.

Dive in
  1. This poem takes the form of a list and, at first glance, that seems rather simple. How do you think a list can be like a poem?
  2. A list poem often involves repetition. How does the repetition of the word “if” affect the tone of the poem? Do you think the repetition of the word “if” helps to build momentum in the poem? If so, how?
  3. Poetry has its foundations in oral traditions and, upon reading this poem, it is easy to imagine it spoken aloud. Why is the spoken element important to this poem and whom do you think the speaker is addressing in this poem?
  4. When you follow the link in the poet’s biography to her own website you will learn that in 2019 Aisha Sasha John won an “Overkill Award” for her “willingness to redefine, to expand and to provoke.” How does this poem provoke?
  5. This poem is written in short lines with no punctuation. If you were going to recite this poem how would you choose to pace your reading? Would you read some lines slowly and other more quickly? Would you choose to emphasize some lines more than others? And where would you pause?
  6. Exercise: Write a list poem. Think of how your inventory of items, people, places, or ideas can be used to provoke or to create understanding, or a mood, or another connection with readers. Think about the importance of repetition in a list poem and what word/words might you structure your list around. To get more ideas on how your own list poem could work you might want to look at these other examples of list poems:



Dive In written by
Bibliographical info

Aisha Sasha John, “Regardless” from I have to live. Copyright © 2017 by Aisha Sasha John. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: I have to live. (McClelland & Stewart, 2017)

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