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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tenuousness
To read "Lighthead: Poems" by Terrance Hayes is to enter a world that's distinctly uncomfortable, almost jarring, as if the familiar has become dislocated. Perhaps it's like experiencing lightheadedness, except it's experiencing it as a state of normal. And you know this from the beginning of this collection of poems: "Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and children of the...
Published on July 1, 2010 by Glynn Young

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12 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Depressing
Let me say right away that I have enjoyed Terrance Hayes's work in the past, and think he's a talented poet, with a sensitive ear and keen sensibilities. He was also sassy and fun, if I remember right. Here he's very glum indeed.

The previous reviewer is right, saying that the world in these poems is distinctly uncomfortable. Lighthead is a voice that...
Published on April 14, 2011 by DabblerArts


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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tenuousness, July 1, 2010
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This review is from: Lighthead (Poets, Penguin) (Paperback)
To read "Lighthead: Poems" by Terrance Hayes is to enter a world that's distinctly uncomfortable, almost jarring, as if the familiar has become dislocated. Perhaps it's like experiencing lightheadedness, except it's experiencing it as a state of normal. And you know this from the beginning of this collection of poems: "Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and children of the state, / I am here because I could never get the hang of Time. / This hour, for example, would be like all the others / were it not for the rain falling through the roof. / I'd better not be too explicit..."(from "Lighthead's Guide to the Galaxy").

Time in these poems, for example, is itself not so much relative as tenuous, as if it's always slipping away or defined by other tenuous and temporary things. In a related poems group entitled "Three Measures of Time," his brother tells time by food ("The past is nutritious; the past is there on the table / with the hair you know is Ma's color..."); his father tells time by smell ("The smell / of barbeque in a sentence, the scent / long gone flat as money")' and his mother by "none of the hours jumping at the window. /By the joblessness of God and the body / beneath a floral bedsheet..."

Place, too, is something ephemeral, as in "Fish Head for Katrina:"

The mouth is where the dead
Who are not dead do not dream.

A house of damaged translations
Task married to distraction

As in a bucket left in a storm
A choir singing in the rain like fish

Acquiring air under water
Prayer and sin the body

Performs to know it is alive
Lit from the inside by reckoning

As in a city
Which is no longer a city...

In "Carp Poem," the poet is visiting the New Orleans Parish Jail to meet with 20 prisoners to talk about...poetry. As the poet walks by the cells, the prisoners become like fish in a pond, each prisoner's orange jumpsuit become the gold scales of the carp. Even prison is not what it seems to be.

There are other ways to slice Hayes' poems - through the filters of race, gender, experience, even age. But the tenuousness of life is what "Lighthead" seems to be most about, a tenuousness rendered with grace.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bring A Lot of Different Stuff Together in a New Way, March 18, 2012
This review is from: Lighthead (Poets, Penguin) (Paperback)
In this book, Terrence Hayes does something that I've never quite seen done before; he's smoothly synthesized the sound-and-emotion-oriented style of spoken-word poetry with the artful arrangement and order of more conceptual, academic poetry. For that, I have to give him some five-star love, even though a lot of the poems talk a lot about African-American identity and racism in a way that I have a hard time taking into my own experience. Yet the guy also references David Bowie, Wallace Stevens, "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Antony and the Johnsons...so it's blazingly clear that he isn't a one-trick rapper/poet.

Really though, some dazzling stuff here, particularly his invention of the "pecha kucha" form (based on a style of Japanese slideshow used for business presentations). The tension between the "slides"/stanzas and their individual titles fleshes out the concepts in an even deeper way, even beyond the surface-level puzzles that he puts forward, so that the pieces end up working on multiple levels and kind of driving you insane and force you to read them over and over, getting more and more out of them each time. There's some game-changing stuff in there.

As mentioned before, I love how omnivorous he is with his references and also with his themes; love, family, the personal vs. cultural/racial history, music...there's even some funny stuff in there too!

For all the brou-ha-ha about the National Book Award committee being so ivory-tower-y, I can't fault them picking this book, at least. It's just so fluid and deft and thoughtful, and perfectly emblematic of how other cultures are slowly infiltrating and destroying the "old dead white men" paradigm of modern poetry, and re-making it into something way more strong and deep and hardy, giving it more of a fighting chance to become a significant part of more people's lives. This is a service Hayes does without being at all self-conscious, and the fruits of his labor are pretty miraculous.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smile, October 11, 2011
This review is from: Lighthead (Poets, Penguin) (Paperback)
"I'm not shy, I'm sober" states Terrance Haynes in Lighthead and then follows that with "This is Not an Exit" means "Do not Enter" in a poem titled Twenty-Six Imaginary T-Shirts.
In Lighthead by Terrance Hayes the poems cover the gambit of sexuality, failure, and triumph.
In God is An American has a stanza "I love words. When we make love in the morning/ your skin damp from a shower, the day calms".
The soulful book captures the essence of change in a continuing shifting world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, Strong, Heartfelt, January 18, 2014
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This review is from: Lighthead (Poets, Penguin) (Paperback)
This was my first collection of Terrance Hayes work and I was hooked from the first. He expresses real passion in his writing. He crafts each poem, stating things with precision, choosing his words carefully so that the impact lies in the conciseness of his statements. Some of his poems are strong statements about the hardships in life and then you turn the page and find a delightfully humorous poem such as "Lighthead's Guide To Addiction." It was brilliant. Hayes is a professor and his literary background and skill is reflected in the masterful way he uses words. I enjoyed reading his works so much that I looked up Terrance Hayes on the internet and watched his acceptance speech for when he received the National Book Award for this work. He was a delightful man with a real twinkle in his eye, someone with verve who is passionate in expressing himself. I will definitely purchase more of his works.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic and accessible, October 19, 2014
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Fantastic and accessible. I got to meet Terrence two weeks after buying this book, and he truly does write in his own voice.
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4.0 out of 5 stars POETS LIGHTHEAD, August 12, 2014
By 
Birgitta L Ramsey (Hammond, LA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lighthead (Poets, Penguin) (Paperback)
This book is a conversation piece. Additionally the speed of delivery was impressive.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, October 19, 2014
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This review is from: Lighthead (Poets, Penguin) (Paperback)
It was a gift for my son and he loved it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, August 23, 2014
This review is from: Lighthead (Poets, Penguin) (Paperback)
AAA+++
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12 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Depressing, April 14, 2011
This review is from: Lighthead (Poets, Penguin) (Paperback)
Let me say right away that I have enjoyed Terrance Hayes's work in the past, and think he's a talented poet, with a sensitive ear and keen sensibilities. He was also sassy and fun, if I remember right. Here he's very glum indeed.

The previous reviewer is right, saying that the world in these poems is distinctly uncomfortable. Lighthead is a voice that introduces itself at the beginning of the book, and returns to deliver some deeply conflicted advice that more than anything evoke the hurt and difficulty of our lives. In fact, the whole book is quite raw, bruised with all kind of hurt. Wallace Stevens was a racist ("the emperor of whiteness / blue as a body made of snow"), the poet's uncle was a racist who beat up his daughter for seeing a white boy ("He went to work / beating a prayer out of her skin" - which is as horrifying as poetry gets), Americans are scary, we're all going to die, etc. Even the poems that riff on or pay tribute to black music only conjure up hurt and pain. There are poems that speak very frankly of uneasiness and solitude in the household, "when the scent of another of those full-boned marital truths / hovers in the air above us" and when "the joke knock around and expand / in my gut, pushing all the good air out."

Seems like all the new poetry I've encountered recently can be divided into three camps: bucolic idylls that have nothing to do with our current lives; theory-laden stuff that have nothing to do with non-academic life; and poetry like this, which does show us our lives, but are so darkened with politics and despair that I'm left exhausted, wondering if there isn't more to poetry than various kinds of outrage. It's probably too old-fashioned to insist on the self-composed lyric, whose formal accomplishment offers some kind of reward or respite from the difficulty of its subjects (Montale, for example) - we can write no more, it seems. The world races out of hand, and poets too are caught in a spiral of anger and doubt. I don't know what to do with a poem like "Support the Troops!" (i.e. "I will not support war and murder!") or "Carp Poem" (which equates prisoners coming to a talk about poetry with carps in a Japanese garden pond, who would "have eaten each other had there been nothing / to eat"; or with lines like these:

... When I asked
God if anyone born to slaves would die
a slave, He said, "Sure as a rock descending
a hillside." That's why I'm not a Christian.

Are there good poems in this collection? I think so. "New Folk" is kind of funny and touching - a black "new" Folk band launches on a career (so to speak), but only manages to attract "well-meaning alabaster post-adolescents." The poet exhorts his bandmates to keep up faith that black sisters like (Tracy) Chapman would come round eventually. "God is an American" is actually kind of a sweet love poem (though of course very troubled). A couple of others struck me as enjoyable lyrics in their own right.

A character at the end of the book (neatly chiming with the character at the beginning of the book) declares, "I have no form because / I have no allegiance / to form" - which characterizes this book well. The little images of a flame ringed with ellipses - some kind of Heracleitean fire - that divide the sections of the book further punch home the point. That's not the problem. I think the problem, which I have alluded to before, is that within their own spaces, these poems do not fulfill any substantial formal or lyrical promises. It seems that poetry is almost beyond the point.

I had to write this, because the book made me so depressed. I'm depressed writing this and I don't know how to cheer myself up. I don't doubt that these poems are true to the poet's experience, but as poetry, I would have to rate it as a failure. "It must give pleasure," that racist Stevens said, whose own poetry often left much (in the way of human warmth) to be desired, it's true, but did also often please with its music and imagery.
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Lighthead (Poets, Penguin)
Lighthead (Poets, Penguin) by Terrance Hayes (Paperback - March 30, 2010)
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