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Terrance Hayes
Terrance Hayes

American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin

About this Poem 

“This is from a series of a hundred or so poems with the same title: ‘American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin.’ Each poem speaks for itself. Here, for example, technology kills me.”
—Terrance Hayes

American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin

Any day now you will have the ability to feed the name
Of anyone into an engine & your long lost half brother
As well as whoever else possesses a version of his name
Will appear before your face in bits of pixels & data
Displaying his monikers (like Gitmo for trapping, Bang
Bang
for banging, Dopamine for dope or brains),
The country he would most like to visit (Heaven),
His nine & middle finger pointing towards the arms
Of the last trill trees of Bluff Estates & the arms
Of the slim fly girls the color of trees cut down & shaped
Into something a nail penetrates. I admit, right now
Technology is insufficient, but you will find them
Flashing grins & money in the photos they took
Before they were ghosts when you click here tomorrow.

Copyright © 2017 by Terrance Hayes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Terrance Hayes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

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National Poetry Month 2017 Poster
Writing from the Absence
American Poets, Spring-Summer 2017
poem

Poetry

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
      all this fiddle.
   Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
      discovers that there is in
   it after all, a place for the genuine.
      Hands that can grasp, eyes
      that can dilate, hair that can rise
         if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
      they are
   useful; when they become so derivative as to become
      unintelligible, the
   same thing may be said for all of us—that we
      do not admire what
      we cannot understand. The bat,
         holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless
      wolf under
   a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse
      that feels a flea, the base-
   ball fan, the statistician—case after case
      could be cited did
      one wish it; nor is it valid
         to discriminate against “business documents and

school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must
      make a distinction
   however: when dragged into prominence by half poets,
      the result is not poetry,
   nor till the autocrats among us can be
     “literalists of
      the imagination”—above
         insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them,
      shall we have
   it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance
       of their opinion—
   the raw material of poetry in
      all its rawness, and
      that which is on the other hand,
         genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

Marianne Moore
1919
collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

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A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

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Point Reyes National Seashore
poem

Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames]

I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words....

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
2007
Mark Strand's "Cento Virgilianus"
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Gwendolyn Brooks: A Centennial Celebration

A Pulitzer Prize winner, an Academy Fellowship winner, and the first black woman appointed as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, Gwendolyn Brooks was—and continues to be—an outstanding voice in the world of contemporary American poetry. Brooks, who was awarded countless literary honors in her lifetime, was known for writing poems that captured a cross-section of everyday life in her hometown of Chicago. In sonnets, ballads, epic poems, and more, Brooks captured the lives, speech, and perspectives of people as varied as those she encountered in her city, and was particularly known for her interrogation of race relations and class.

This year marks Brooks’s centennial, and to celebrate, we’ve created this new collection of essays, audio, and poems by and about Brooks.