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About this poet

Terrance Hayes was born in Columbia, South Carolina, on November 18, 1971. He received a BA from Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina, where he studied painting and English and was an Academic All-American on the men’s basketball team, and an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh writing program, where he is professor of creative writing and co-founder of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics.

Terrance Hayes is the author of eight collections of poetry including, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (Penguin Poets, 2018), which is a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry and is shortlisted for the 2018 T. S. Eliot Prize; How to Be Drawn (Penguin Books, 2015), a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Poetry; Lighthead (Penguin, 2010), which won the National Book Award for Poetry; Wind in a Box (Penguin, 2006); Hip Logic (Penguin, 2002), which won the 2001 National Poetry Series and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award; and Muscular Music (Tia Chucha Press, 1999), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He has one forthcoming collection, To Float In The Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight (Wave, 2018).

About his work, Cornelius Eady has said: "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."

He has received many honors and awards, including a Whiting Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, three Best American Poetry selections, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2014, he was named a recipient of the prestigious  MacArthur “Genius Award” Fellowship.

He was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2017. He is currently the Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University (2016 - 2018) and the poetry editor at New York Times Magazine.


Bibliography

How to Be Drawn (Penguin Books, 2015) 
Lighthead (Penguin, 2010)
Wind in a Box (Penguin, 2006)
Hip Logic (Penguin, 2002)
Muscular Music (Tia Chucha Press, 1999)

Barberism

It was light and lusterless and somehow luckless,
The hair I cut from the head of my father-in-law,

It was pepper-blanched and wind-scuffed, thin
As a blown bulb’s filament, it stuck to the teeth

Of my clippers like a dark language, the static
Covering his mind stuck to my fingers, it mingled

In halfhearted tufts with the dust. Because
Every barber’s got a gift for mind reading in his touch,

I could hear what he would not say. He’d sworn
To never let his hair be cut again after his daughter

Passed away. I told him how my own boy,
His grandchild, weeps when my clippers bite

Behind his ear, but I could not say how
The blood there tastes. I almost showed him

How I bow my own head to the razor in my hands,
How a mirror is used to taper the nape.

Science and religion come to the same conclusion:
Someday all the hair on the body will fall away.

I’m certain he will only call on me for a few more years,
The crown of his head is already smoother

Than any part of his face. It shines like the light
In tiny bulbs of sweat before the sweat evaporates.

From How to Be Drawn (Penguin Books, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Terrance Hayes. Used with the permission of the author.

From How to Be Drawn (Penguin Books, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Terrance Hayes. Used with the permission of the author.

Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes

The 2010 winner of the National Book Award in poetry, Terrance Hayes is the author of five poetry collections. He currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem
Fred Sanford's on at 12
& I'm standing in the express lane (cash only)
about to buy Head & Shoulders
the white people shampoo, no one knows
what I am. My name could be Lamont.
George Clinton wears colors like Toucan Sam,
the Froot Loop pelican. Follow your nose,
he says. But I have
2
poem

If you subtract the minor losses,
you can return to your childhood too:
the blackboard chalked with crosses,

the math teacher's toe ring. You
can be the black boy not even the buck-
toothed girls took a liking to:

the match box, these bones in their funk
machine, this thumb worn

poem
They are like those crazy women 
   who tore Orpheus
      when he refused to sing,

these men grinding
   in the strobe & black lights
      of Pegasus. All shadow & sound.

"I'm just here for the music," 
   I tell the man who asks me
      to the floor. But I have held

a boy on my back before.
2