Monday, October 26, 2015

Terrance Hayes

I posted a blog with the question How Far Would You Drive for Poetry? on April 5, 2013.
And my answer was... Round trip 260 miles. I was in the cities at that time but wanted to hear Naomi Shihab Nye, a poet author and song writer present a poetry reading and writer's workshop at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, MN.
Two and a half years later I was back at Central Lakes College to hear the award winning poet, Terrence Hayes. But this time the poetry trek was only round trip 93 miles but so well worth the drive.
Terrance Hayes's poetry reading and workshop was made possible by the Verse Like Water visiting poet program of Central Lakes College. The literary event was sponsored with a generous grant from Five Wings Arts Council and Minnesota Public Radio.

Terrance Hayes's resume is quite impressive. His poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including The New Yorker. He is the author of 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 earned a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2014, he was named a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. He is professor of creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Terrance Hayes graces the cover of his newest 5th book of poems with his self portrait.
Chalberg Theatere was packed for the poetry reading. His poetry resonated with the audience as he read from his newest book. He has a casual, easy going, self assured manner sitting on the stage sharing his works. His poems reflect race, gender and family. He has a reverence for history and gift for crafting verses of the everyday man. 
Racial trauma is everywhere in Hayes’s work, instantiated by his personal ghosts—an absent father, a mother who worked as a prison guard, an array of family troubles and damage. But his style is brilliant as he uses poetic language even to express tragedy. I have no idea how his mind works but his poems give the impression of spontaneity. The result is a wild ride without an off switch. The poem “How to Be Drawn to Trouble” starts out as a tribute to James Brown, “stoned on horns and money,” who was briefly an inmate in the prison where Hayes’s mother worked.
He graciously signed copies of his books afterwards.
Local poet, Char Donovan was lucky to get her picture taken with Hayes after the workshop.
Some things I gleaned from the workshop are Terrance's most favorite past time next to writing is playing basketball several evenings a week. The word practice came up frequently in his workshop. He drew parallels with basketball practice and writing. Practice never stops. One needs to experiment and continually push to get as far as you can go. There should be pleasure in practice but not always be focused on the end game. And so the writer needs to find their passion and work with it. Hayes also drew parallels between poems writing and well-oiled machines. He encourages the writer to first work on the mechanics or form then add the language.
I was impressed at how humble Hayes remains even after winning so many accolades. The MacArthur prize is a hefty cash prize of $625,00. While he is gratified by the distinguished honor, he feels a money gift doesn't help him write better poems, as poems come to him regardless. But the affirmation does give him momentum to write more and improve.
How fortunate we are to have opportunities for national recognized poets to visit the North Central Lakes area such as Terrance Hayes.

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