Results of the Tufts Poetry Awards in the year 2000.
The poems in Terrance Hayes’s book, Muscular Music, are atypical of most writers’ first books of poetry. One cannot categorize these poems simply as confessional, narrative, or lyrical. They are all these things at once. They move beyond usual explorations of childhood or family to blend themes and influences that range from Neruda to Coltrane, Fat Albert to Orpheus, John Shaft to Gershwin.
This book gives us an almost Whitmanesque account of an America, and an African American, replete with grace and imperfection. Moreover, it gives us a voice that does not sacrifice truth for music or music for accessibility. At the end of a poem that includes Bill Strayhorn, Andrew Carnegie, and Dante, Hayes says, “I know one of the rings of hell is reserved for men who refuse to weep. So I let it come. And it does not move from me.” These lines reflect what is always at the core of Hayes’s poetry: a faithfulness, not to traditional forms or themes, but to heart and honesty. It is a core bounded by and cradled by a passion for the music in all things.