Friday, April 25, 2008

Terrance Hayes | Blacks in voting booths are Blacks in boxes too


Last night’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer was a real treat. They featured Pittsburgh poet, Terrance Hayes, who has become one of the most significant new voices in both poetry and more specifically Black poetry. As our elders transition, it is heartening to witness how the song continues. Old melodies blend with new rhythms. Watch the segment here. Hayes reads from Hip Logic which won the National Poetry Series in 2002 and his new collection, Wind In A Box, published in 2006.

I wanted to share two of my favourite poems of Hayes below. (Well, I have many favourite poems - but these two strike me as typical of the person I’m glad to have shared dinner with from time to time.) I put them below because they would never be read on national television.

Considering how long it to me to warm to Sonnet and embrace it as a brilliant poem, I know for certain that it’s power and irony would be lost on the general American public. However, this poem definitively portrays: Hayes' sense of humour, quietly defiant self-definition; and command of poetic standards. Because he knows the “rules” so well, he can break and remake them with grace and ease. I like that about him. (Sounds like one of my cherished political candidates.)

Sonnet
by Terrance Hayes
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.

We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.

We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.

We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
-from Hip Logic


The Blue Seuss from Wind In A Box says more about the current election than most people have. Listen to it here. No, really - go take a listen!


The Blue Seuss
by Terrance Hayes

Blacks in one box
Blacks in two box
Blacks on
Blacks stacked in boxes stacked on boxes
Blacks in boxes stacked on shores
Blacks in boxes stacked on boats in darkness
Blacks in boxes do not float
Blacks in boxes count their losses
Blacks on boat docks
Blacks on auction
Blacks on wagons
Blacks with masters in the houses
Blacks with bosses in the fields
Blacks in helmets toting rifles
Blacks in Harlem toting banjoes boots and quilts
Blacks on foot
Blacks on buses
Blacks on backwood hardwood stages singing blues
Blacks on Broadway singing too
Blacks can Charleston
Blacks can foxtrot
Blacks can bebop
Blacks can moonwalk
Blacks can beatbox
Blacks can run fast too
Blacks on
Blacks and
Blacks on knees and
Blacks on couches
Blacks on Good Times
Blacks on Roots
Blacks on Cosby
Blacks in voting booths are
Blacks in boxes
Blacks beside
Blacks in rows of houses are
Blacks in boxes too
- from Wind In A Box
If you are an educator, his poetry is exceptionally well crafted and yet remain accessible. When you begin a poetry unit with children, these poems can gently ease you into some powerful discussions.

Terrance has a lovely wife Yona and two incredible children, Ua and Arron to support. Consider adding these collections to your library.

MORE RESOURCES:
Terrance Hayes on NPR with the poem, The Blue Terrance.


Poem, The Blue Bowie in Jubliat

Read more of or about Terrance Hayes here.

My Aesthetic Schizophrenia: An Interview with Terrance Hayes by
Jonathan Moody

4 comments:

Ferocious Kitty said...

Christina, thanks for the link to the segment!

I was out last night and missed it.

Africa said...

I enjoyed this brotha's simple complexity. he reminds me of Gil Scott-Heron. I'll add him to my collection.

Christina Springer said...

Africa - I'm glad you enjoyed him. He is truly one of the most important new voices.

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