Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Lighthead (Penguin Poets)
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VINE VOICEon July 1, 2010
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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on January 18, 2014
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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on March 18, 2012
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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on October 11, 2011
"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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on July 10, 2015
Sometimes I love Terrance Hayes and sometimes I like him. But his imagery of dripping moonlight on leaves and the subtle tones of night, the hums of living, and the anger under the surface of ordinary life scenes--it all makes his poetry glow. Some of the more humorous poems weren't that funny. They were kind of lame, to be honest. Or maybe they just rang flatter for me. But when he is on the theme of what it means to be a black poet in America and what the social stakes of that can be--how language is tied up in living and the image is tied up in movement- he is outstanding.
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on March 18, 2015
This book is intense and smart, but I never felt like I was being talked down to.
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on August 12, 2014
This book is a conversation piece. Additionally the speed of delivery was impressive.
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on February 16, 2015
A gift for my grandson and he states that he is enjoying it.
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on October 19, 2014
It was a gift for my son and he loved it!
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on October 19, 2014
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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