Terrance Hayes

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Terrance Hayes in 2014

Terrance Hayes (born November 18, 1971) is an American poet and educator who has published five poetry collections. His 2010 collection, Lighthead, won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2010.


  • I have a line in the last book about how to draw an invisible man, and it says, “I’m trying to be transparent.” I don’t actually want to be invisible, which is the dilemma of people of color, but I would like to be transparent, so people can see what my issues are, good and bad. I just try to be transparent and very present, and then see what happens.
  • …All my flaws and quirks and neuroses, they fit just as well as the scarring that comes from racism or masculinity, and I don’t want to have to cut that off. People confuse privacy and secrecy way too much. I’m not saying it’s confessional, but it gives more texture to your work if you can figure out how not to close off those rooms.
  • …here’s the thing about all the titles. It’s so great to not have to think about that. The title is a gesture to categorize it, reduce it, and frame it. In the sonnets I can carry an idea and know that I have to turn that idea…
  • …I think that poets can do anything. With a novel, we all know about plot and character and yes, there’s experimental and people can recognize that, but I think that there are rules. I don’t think of poetry that way…
  • I too, having lost faith
    in language, have placed my faith in language.

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