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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), 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)

Lighthead's Guide to the Galaxy

Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and children of the state,
I am here because I could never get the hang of Time.
This hour, for example, would be like all the others
were it not for the rain falling through the roof.
I'd better not be too explicit. My night is careless
with itself, troublesome as a woman wearing no bra
in winter. I believe everything is a metaphor for sex.
Lovemaking mimics the act of departure, moonlight
drips from the leaves. You can spend your whole life
doing no more than preparing for life and thinking.
"Is this all there is?" Thus, I am here where poets come
to drink a dark strong poison with tiny shards of ice,
something to loosen my primate tongue and its syllables
of debris. I know all words come from preexisting words
and divide until our pronouncements develop selves.
The small dog barking at the darkness has something to say
about the way we live. I'd rather have what my daddy calls
"skrimp." He says "discrete" and means the street
just out of sight. Not what you see, but what you perceive:
that's poetry. Not the noise, but its rhythm; an arrangement
of derangements; I'll eat you to live: that's poetry.
I wish I glowed like a brown-skinned pregnant woman.
I wish I could weep the way my teacher did as he read us
Molly Bloom's soliloquy of yes. When I kiss my wife,
sometimes I taste her caution. But let's not talk about that.
Maybe Art's only purpose is to preserve the Self.
Sometimes I play a game in which my primitive craft fires
upon an alien ship whose intention is the destruction
of the earth. Other times I fall in love with a word
like somberness. Or moonlight juicing naked branches.
All species have a notion of emptiness, and yet
the flowers don't quit opening. I am carrying the whimper
you can hear when the mouth is collapsed, the wisdom
of monkeys. Ask a glass of water why it pities
the rain. Ask the lunatic yard dog why it tolerates the leash.
Brothers and sisters, when you spend your nights
out on a limb, there's a chance you'll fall in your sleep.

From Lighthead by Terrance Hayes. Copyright © 2010 by Terrance Hayes. Used by permission of Penguin. All rights reserved.

From Lighthead by Terrance Hayes. Copyright © 2010 by Terrance Hayes. Used by permission of Penguin. All rights reserved.

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

And I understand well now, it is beautiful
to be dumb: my tyrannical inclinations, my love
for the prodigal jocks aging from primetime
to pastime, the pixilated plain people and colored folk

with homemade signs. Cutouts, cutups, ambushes,
bushwackers. The clouds are overwhelmed

poem
But there never was a black male hysteria
Breaking & entering wearing glee & sadness
And the light grazing my teeth with my lighter
To the night with the flame like a blade cutting
Me slack along the corridors with doors of offices
Orifices vomiting tears
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