Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes


Terrance Hayes is Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University and the author of four collections of poetry: Muscular Music (1999), Hip Logic (2002), Wind in a Box (2006), and Lighthead (2010). His work has appeared in journals such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Poetry, African American Review, and Kenyon Review. He has received numerous awards and honors, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the National Poetry Series Open Competition, three Best American Poetry selections, a Pushcart Prize, and the National Book Award.

Hayes’s work is distinguished for the magnificence and precision of its language and sound. Poet Cornelius Eady proclaims, “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.” John Freeman has noted, “Poetry has two kinds of music. There is the sound it makes when read aloud, and then it has an inner composition, too--that strange, occult rhythm that verses make when your mind, not your lips, mouths the words. Terrance Hayes is one of the rare poets who can braid these two sound into a kind of harmony.”

His work is also noteworthy for its often startling elements of surprise. Hayes explains, “Surprise is at the root of why I write poetry. Intellectual surprises, emotional surprises. ... Writing is like searching for the light switch in a pitch-black room. Some poets know going in how to find it. ... I don't mind knocking around in the dark for a little while. There is frustration and anxiety at being lost, of course, but there is also faith that the search will result in a lovely blast of light.” Indeed, his work consistently sheds light on issues of racial and gendered identity, helping to reveal complexities that had previously remained hidden. Megan Simpson suggests, “In his explorations of what it means to be an artist, a Black artist, a Black male artist, and his inquiries into the various discourses--cultural, historical, personal--that partake in the construction of social categories and identities, Hayes is by turns brilliantly playful and profoundly serious.” According to critics Duriel E. Harris and Kelly Ellis, Hayes “displays a delicate yet broad-shouldered attentiveness, revealing the interior textures and melodies of a thoughtfully evolving black male self.”

Hayes holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Coker College and a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Pittsburgh. A native of South Carolina, he now lives in Pittsburgh.

Event Details

For its twenty-fifth anniversary celebration, Marygrove College welcomes National Book Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes, the author of four collections of poetry: Muscular Music (1999), Hip Logic (2002), Wind in a Box (2006), and Lighthead (2010).

Contemporary American Author Lecture Series (CAALS)

Contemporary American Authors Lecture Series (CAALS)

The CAALS brings a nationally-known author to Marygrove College each year for a public lecture and a seminar with students.

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