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4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,468 ratings  ·  102 reviews
Winner of the 2010 National Book Award for Poetry

In his fourth collection, Terrance Hayes investigates how we construct experience. With one foot firmly grounded in the everyday and the other hovering in the air, his poems braid dream and reality into a poetry that is both dark and buoyant. Cultural icons as diverse as Fela Kuti, Harriet Tubman, and Wallace Stevens appear
Paperback, 95 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Penguin Books
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4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,468 ratings  ·  102 reviews

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Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book of poems was recommended to me by Derek McDow and I thank him greatly. Lighthead shows poetry in very creative forms. Terrance Hayes pushes his poetry writing to the limits. Expression and meaning are the most important and he uses different types of poetry to do that. The book is separated into 4 sections which contain about 4-5 poems. The poems are all different styles - the most original is the pecha kucha, Japanese powerpoint presentation where 20 consecutive pictures are flashed f ...more
Dec 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Very much worthy of the recognition it has received, including this year's National Book Award. Hayes' poetry is what we most hope for in the art: a natural attention to language that manifests equally in the sound and the sense of it. The auricular pleasures are both audible and subtle: "The bride of eaves or the easy bride of naves."

In one poem, Hayes plaits the old story of the four blind men trying to describe the elephant with meditations on the body and boundaries. In another, he uses Gwe
Oct 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it
...but five stars plus for all of the poems about Mr. Hayes' family, especially "For Brothers of the Dragon" and "Arbor for Butch." I'll admit that I don't care for poetry that can best be described as "playful" or "irreverent" or "ironic" - which is why I generally avoid reading collections of poetry, because who is somber all of the time? - and that is why I liked rather than loved this collection as a whole.

However, over the days I've read this I've had brief moments at work or driving somew
Mar 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry-poetics
I like how Terrance Hayes keeps a distance between himself and his poems. There's an autobiographical element to many of his poems, but it's always playfully elusive, like the "Blue Terrance" poems in Wind in a Box, which is still my favorite book of his.

This book is great, too, playful and powerful as Wind in a Box, ambitious in its subject matter and its formal ground-breaking. I was especially blown away by the "Golden Shovel" poem, which uses the entirety of Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool"
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Poetry like this convinces me I haven't lived enough.

"Friend, sometimes the wind's scuttle makes the reeds
In the body vibrate. Sometimes the noise gives up its code
And the music is better at saying what I meant to say."
-from "Liner Notes for an Imaginary Playlist"
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I read a lot of poetry, but I don’t often read a collection and think, “yeah, that’s a National Book Award winner” (even for collections I love) but, yeah this is.
Dallas Swindell
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The poems collected by Terrance Hayes into Lighthead brim with a spoken word rhyme and flow all while filling themselves up with the exchange of meditative, burning thought. These collected poems are at times surreal, at times narrative, and at times an updated pecha kucha, but the breath within each line is still singular and imaginative. It’s hard to describe exactly how Hayes packs so much emotion, humor, and sharp observation into each tightly woven poem. The result though is an expansive se ...more
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
For people who dig spoken word poetry but find written poetry to be stuffy or inaccessible, I present to you Lighthead by Terrence Hayes. Hayes writes about music, relationships, history, and the black experience with an energy that rivals the best spoken word pieces I've seen; the poems seem to come alive off the page. Those who love form will also be pleased as every word is carefully chosen to flow (I'm not a poetry major so I can't go into technical specifics). Hayes also seems to be the inv ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm in love with this collection. I will be revisiting these poems forever, I think.

My favorites as of now (* indicate my absolute favorites):

Lighthead's Guide to the Galaxy
The Golden Shovel*
A Plate of Bones
For Brothers of the Dragon
Three Measures of Time
The Avocado*
A House Is Not a Home
Lighthead's Guide to Addiction
Support the Troops!
I Am A Bird Now
Arbor for Butch*
Apr 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Very referential, requires a large commitment on the part of the reader.
May 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Poetry that begs to be spoken aloud, which in my mind is the best kind.
Phil Overeem
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Pecha kuchas: interesting (one inspired by Fela songs). When this guy's good, he's really good. Recommended.
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
i expected to like this, i liked it even more than expected. his pecha kucha poems were among my favorites, also dog eared (in my library book, whoops) nothing, God is an american, and support the troops.

Carp Poem by Terrance Hayes

After I have parked below the spray paint caked in the granite
grooves of the Fredrick Douglass Middle School sign

where men and women sized children loiter like shadows
draped in the outsized denim, jerseys, bangles, braids, and boots

that mean I am no longer young, afte
Jan 28, 2011 added it
Shelves: read-in-2011
from "For Brothers of the Dragon"

I have no problem with the flaws of memory. The bird carcass
stiff as the shoe of a hit and run victim on the side of the road
might just be a veil the wind pulled from the face of a new bride.
Why was the imagination invented, if not to remake?
Apr 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really liked this, even though not all the poems hit home for me. I hadn't liked Wind in a Box as much, I think because there felt like there was a bigger wall, while it really felt like in Lighthead, Hayes let down his guard a bit. Some of the poems were downright heartbreaking, and I simply loved the momentum that drove through the entire book. Yes.
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Hayes is known for his innovative use and invention of form. Two I will mention, n "The Golden Shovel" the last word of each line forms Gwendolyn Brooks famous poem, "We Real Cool", twice. Second, pecha kucha, a Japanese business format adapted to American poetry.
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I like how when poets get older they get more and more lyric. Of course, some of these poems left me behind in the dust. But a bunch were amazing. That last pecha kucha, "Arbor for Butch," is heartbreaking. And "Support the Troops!" is on my favorite-ever list.
James Grinwis
Sep 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
killer sweet
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
All The Way Live, Tankhead, and Arbor for Butch, the petcha kucha inspired by the works of Martin Puryear. The ekphrastic inspiration and study of his father are worth rereading. Remember these.
Phew, there was some stuff in here that went over my head. And stuff I didn't like, no matter if that went over my head, too. But there were also pieces I liked, quite a bit actually. Especially in the first half, I don't know if I burnt out on Hayes' style or if the first half was just more for me but almost all my standouts come from that section.
Some of those read like little snapshots into people's lives, like short stories but more ramified and with some astounding imagery. Those were the o
Patricia McLaughlin
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Like keloids—smooth, hard growths formed when scar tissue grows excessively—these grotesquely beautiful poems bear witness to the poet’s repeated woundings and his lineage of trauma; some, like salutary maggots, feed on the decaying flesh of fresh wounds inflicted by a vicious society for whom black lives will never matter.

Favorites Passages:
“Lighthead’s Guide to the Galaxy”:
“Thus, I am here where poets come
to drink a dark strong poison with tiny shards of ice,
something to loosen my primate tong
Kelsey Hennegen
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Terrance Hayes is my favorite poet right now and this collection is superb. Hayes uses powerful and vivid abstractions, anthropomorphizing conceptual musings, feelings, emotions, imbuing them with corporeal stuff... a body, a capacity, even a will, agency. He explores themes of desperation, identity, empathy, pain, race, history, potential.

His wordplay is unparalleled! I love his slant rhymes, his uses of contronyms, his deft and clever linguistic exploration. Hayes often employs a gorgeous bal
Lulu (the library leopard)
I'm so glad I got around to reading a book of Terrance Hayes's poetry after being assigned to read Golden Shovel a million times in writing classes. I especially liked how he messed around with format.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Read for Contemporary American Poetry. I would give it a higher rating because there’s a great amount of control of sound and image, but most of the poetry is beyond me. That’s not a criticism of anyone but me.
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The pecha kucha poems are the real standouts: deeply emotional, hallucinatory, and fragmented. Hayes has a masterful understanding of the power and play found in regarding words as sounds. Each poem contains at least one line, sentence, or phrase that makes this very clear.
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
What happens when somebody has nothing to say and all the academic foundation in the world to say it.
Christopher Louderback
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"I want to be a human above the body"
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fave: the avocado poem.
Mike Hammer
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Terrance Hayes is a master wordsmith, great rhythms, cutting intense scenes, funny insightful lines, check him out.
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  • Head Off & Split
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  • Elegy
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Terrance Hayes is the author of four books of poetry, including Lighthead (Penguin, 2010), which won the National Book Award for Poetry; Wind in a Box (2006); Hip Logic (2002), which won the 2001 National Poetry Series and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award; and Muscular Music (1999), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.

He is an Associate Professor of creative writing at Carn
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“I am carrying the whimper
you can hear when the mouth is collapsed, the wisdom
of monkeys. Ask a glass of water why it pities
the rain. Ask the lunatic yard dog why it tolerates the leash.
Brothers and sisters, when you spend your nights
out on a limb, there’s a chance you’ll fall in your sleep.”
“I’ll eat you to live: that’s poetry.” 2 likes
More quotes…