2024 Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence, Terrance Hayes, will give a reading on Tuesday, February 27 at 7:30pm in Moeser Auditorium. The reading is free and open to the public.
In his new book Watch Your Language: Visual and Literary Reflections on a Century of American Poetry, Terrance Hayes asks: “Do the words poetry and politics constitute a portmanteau of poetics?” For decades, Hayes has been investigating the combination of those first two words in his powerful work. His poetry, rooted in identity and personal experience, is unabashedly political; but his poems are first and foremost poems, their language keen, their sounds rich, their images astonishing, their forms inventive and audacious. Everything he writes manages to, in Ezra Pound’s imperative, make it new, on the page and in the ear, which is what our very best lyric poets do—line by line, stanza by stanza, poem by poem.
One of the most distinctive voices in contemporary American literature, Terrance Hayes is the author of seven books of poetry: So to Speak (2023); American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (2018), winner of the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress; How to Be Drawn (2015); Lighthead (2010), winner of the 2010 National Book Award in Poetry; Wind in a Box (2006); Hip Logic (2002), winner of the National Poetry Series; and Muscular Music (1999), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He is also the author of To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight (2018), which won the Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism.
He has received many other honors and awards, including a 2014 MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, a Whiting Award in Poetry, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His poetry has appeared in such publications as the New Yorker, Poetry, and The American Poetry Review, among many others, and has also been featured on PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Hayes is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at New York University.
Whether in poetry or prose, each of Terrance Hayes’s books is an adventure, a passionate and ingenious variation on a central theme: what it means to be an artist and a Black man in America. “There are recurring explorations of identity and culture in my work,” Hayes writes, “and rather than deny my thematic obsessions, I work to change the forms in which I voice them.” “My essential poetics,” he writes in Watch Your Language, “is simply to be doing something, making something, playing, struggling, learning something. Practice and poetics are synonymous in my mind. Both are enhanced by variation: particularness, adaptability as well as resistance.”
No other poet working today is more exciting or deeply delightful to read; as Cornelius Eady says, “First you’ll marvel at his skill, his near-perfect pitch, his disarming humor, his brilliant turns of phrase. Then you’ll notice the grace, the tenderness, the unblinking truth-telling just beneath his lines, the open and generous way he takes in our world.”