during these times, the poetry of terrance hayes

University of Pittsburgh (6)

Cathedral of Learning on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

Not writing about and not commenting on Ferguson somehow feels wrong.

And anything I can think of to write or say also feels wrong.

That’s just where I am right now.

As it turns out, I’ve been reading the poetry of Terrance Hayes, a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and who was recently named as a 2014 MacArthur Fellow.

This intersection of my most recent literary selection and the events in Ferguson are somewhat coincidental. I picked up Hayes’ latest collection Lighthead shortly after the MacArthur announcement in September simply because I hadn’t read Terrance Hayes before and I was curious about his work.

One of the reasons I read poetry – or anything, really – is to gain a different perspective on something. “There are less ideas about what’s a great poem and what’s a bad poem if you’re really thinking about perspective, the perspective of the poet,” Hayes says, in an interview posted on his website. That seems to be especially true with Hayes, a poet who writes about the African American male experience, identity, music, family, Pittsburgh, and more.  In his three books I’ve read thus far (Muscular Music, Wind in a Box, and Lighthead) his work is raw and gritty. Humorous yet reverent.

I was struck by this quote from Mr. Hayes’ webpage, from an interview in which he was asked why poetry is important and if poetry should be important to African-Americans (an odd question, if you ask me, but … whatever):

“Poetry resists generalities. Maybe we can call it an art of paradox, of clarity married to mystery, of thinking married to feeling. Hence, I can’t say why it should be important to African Americans in general, but I can say it “can be” important to an individual– and for different reasons for each individual. For me, Poetry is a way of discovering what I believe/feel about the world around me. Though even that answer is slippery since what I believe/feel changes. I think poetry has a lot to do with intimacy and we all benefit from “talking with” more than being “talked to” as say television talks to us.”

Perhaps that’s where to start with all of this.

With the quiet words of poetry.

And sharing them. With you.



Thanks for sharing this post!