Hayes's fourth book puts invincibly restless wordplay at the service of strong emotions: a son's frustration, a husband's love, a citizen's righteous anger and a friend's erotic jealousy animate these technically astute, even puzzlelike, lines.
The New York Times
The Washington Post
The deservedly acclaimed Hayes returns in his fourth book with the kinds of sly, twisting, hip, jazzy poems his fans have come to expect, but also with a new somberness of tone and mature caution. “You can spend your whole life/ doing no more than preparing for life and thinking/ 'Is this all there is?' ” warns the book's opening poem. Later, in a book that thinks hard about fatherhood, family, and mortality, Hayes asks, “Who cannot think// Our elegies are endless endlessly and the words/ We put to them too often unheard and hurried?” Elsewhere, Hayes treats memory with his signature wit: “I believe, as the elephant must,/ that everything is punctured by the tusks of Nostalgia.” The book also contains a surprisingly effective series of poems based on a form called “pecha kucha,” which, Hayes explains, is a type of Japanese business presentation in which the presenter must riff on a series of slides or images; Hayes adapts this form by bracketing the title or “slide” he's riffing on (“The Magic of Magic” and “The Function of Fiction” are two examples) and following with a four- or five-line stanza. The poems free-associate through their triggers, but images and themes satisfyingly resurface. Hayes, now entering mid-career, remains one of our best poets. (Apr.)
In this thoroughly delightful collection, Hayes invites readers to share his experience and especially his sense of the African American experience through the eyes of such alter egos as Lighthead, Bullethead, Tankhead, and Orpheus. "I already know the difference/ between hearing and listening," one narrator says, and if they are paying attention, readers will, too, in poems that acquire their power through humor and music, the rhythm of a line, the cadence of a song whether that song be a sonnet or a litany of "Twenty-six Imaginary T-shirts" or an homage to the likes of Marvin Gaye or Gwendolyn Brooks. In Hayes's two Golden Shovel poems, he ends his own lines with Brooks's words. Further evidence of Hayes's innovation can be seen in three Pecha Kucha (pe-chak-cha) poems, a take on the Japanese phrase for chitchat and a kind of business presentation. Hayes delivers his narratives in 20 short stanzas, each a short take on a subject. "How, with pipes of winter/ lining his cognition, does someone learn/ to bring a sentence to its knees?" Terrance Hayes does. VERDICT Highly recommended for contemporary collections.—Karla Huston, Appleton Art Ctr., WI