Monday, April 19, 2010

New Age Hayes Blues

I began writing a post on Terrance Hayes (and many other poets for that matter) only to not complete it. This particular post began as a comparison between Hayes and a West Indian poet, Roger Bonair-Agard, which was prompted solely on their similar haircuts at the time, (I'm not sure what style either might be sporting at the moment.) Nevertheless, Hayes is a particularly innovative poet, I believe I first stumbled upon his work on From the Fishouse (, a site which features emerging poets reciting their poetry along with interviews via Quicktime audio feeds. I decided to follow through with my post on Hayes after coming across one of his poems, "The Golden Shovel" featured on Poetry Daily (

One of the reasons I became drawn to Hayes was the seeming effortlessness of his language. What poet doesn't love to hear this? It's the beautiful end result of what may have been a tumultous wring here and there of syntax and word choice. One of my favorites and also a good example of this is "The Blue Terrance," (Caveat: Hayes has a few poems by this title, the one I'm referring to I'll include below.) Probably the reason why Hayes creates such effortless language is the way in which he orders his poems often in neat stanzas, effecting the line breaks in such a way that the poems create an unpredictable but rhythmic beat.

Interesting note about Hayes is how he conceives of the blues poem. While the blues poem is a viable free form genre of poetry, Hayes uses it in a rather innovative way. Though he respects the history of the blues poem, he seeks to take them out of their historical context, which ties to their form and song-like reading as well most notably the repetition and refrains and attempts to make it contemporary by creating a blues poem in which readers consider other references for blue such as the Blue Picasso or a melancholy state. "I wanted to depart from what would be an easier or more accessible notion of what the blues are for black people, for Americans, for Southerners...Obviously there's a relation to the music, [in addition to] other sorts of ideas that come out of what the color blue means," notes Hayes at a Cornell University interview.

Definitely check out Terrance Hayes, he's a writer that is continually trying to give readers a run for their money regarding what they think they know about black writers. He is definitely fond the creative, and the unlimited extent of the literary contemporary. Hayes is currently a professor of creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Blue Terrance by Terrance Hayes

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 smooth
as the belly of a shovel. Thump. Thump.

Thump. Everything I hold takes root.
I remember what the world was like before
I heard the tide humping the shore smooth,

and the lyrics asking: How long has your door
been closed? I remember a garter belt wrung
like a snake around a thigh in the shadows

of a wedding gown before it was flung
out into the bluest part of the night.
Suppose you were nothing but a song

in a busted speaker? Suppose you had to wipe
sweat from the brow of a righteous woman,
but all you owned was a dirty rag? That's why

the blues will never go out of fashion:
their half rotten aroma, their bloodshot octaves of
consequence; that's why when they call, Boy, you're in

trouble. Especially if you love as I love
falling to the earth. Especially if you're a little bit
high strung and a little bit gutted balloon. I love

watching the sky regret nothing but its
self, though only my lover knows it to be so,
and only after watching me sit

and stare off past Heaven. I love the word No
for its prudence, but I love the romantic
who submits finally to sex in a burning row-

house more. That's why nothing's more romantic
than working your teeth through
the muscle. Nothing's more romantic

than the way good love can take leave of you.
That's why I'm so doggone lonesome, Baby,
yes, I'm lonesome and I'm blue.

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