Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Video: Terrance Hayes, “American Sonnets For My Past and Future Assassin”

Terrance Hayes discusses his poetry collection, American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin at Politics and Prose in Washington DC on 7/16/18. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these charged sonnets mark “the umpteenth slump / In our humming democracy, a bumble bureaucracy.” Angry, sarcastic, and playful, Hayes explores, reinterprets, and riffs on the meanings of “American,” “assassin,” and “future.” Notable Americans he turns to include James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, and Toni Morrison, but he also has to reckon with “James Earl Ray Dylann Roof… /…George Zimmerman John Wilkes Booth.” The author of acclaimed books including Hip Logic, How to Be Drawn, and the National Book Award-winning Lighthead, Hayes has consistently been one of the most innovative and technically accomplished poets, and here he brilliantly reinvents the Renaissance sonnet as a specifically “American sonnet that is part prison,/part panic closet …/that is part music box, part meat/grinder,” because, as he says, “when the wound/ is deep, the healing is heroic.”

TTerrance Hayes is the author of Lighthead, winner of the 2010 National Book Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship. How To Be Drawn received the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Poetry.

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