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From an award-winning poet, a new collection in which the political and the personal converge in innovative and beautiful ways.
In his fourth collection, Terrance Hayes investigates how we construct experience. With one foot firmly grounded in the everyday and the other hovering in the air, his poems braid dream and reality into a poetry that is both dark and buoyant. Cultural icons as diverse as Fela Kuti, Harriet Tubman, and Wallace Stevens appear with meditations on desire and history. We see Hayes testing the line between story and song in a series of stunning poems inspired by the Pecha Kucha, a Japanese presentation format. This innovative collection presents the light- headedness of a mind trying to pull against gravity and time. Fueled by an imagination that enlightens, delights, and ignites, Lighthead leaves us illuminated and scorched.
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.
Terrance Hayes is a dazzlingly original poet, interested in adventurous explorations of subject and form. His new work, Hip Logic, is full of poetic tributes to the likes of Paul Robeson, Big Bird, Balthus, and Mr. T, as well as poems based on the anagram principle of words within a word. Throughout, Hayes’s verse dances in a kind of homemade music box, with notes that range from tender to erudite, associative to narrative, humorous to political. Hip Logic does much to capture the nuances of contemporary male African American identity and confirms Hayes’s reputation as one of the most compelling new voices in American poetry.