File next to Rankine’s Citizen.
This book has been keeping me company for a month or so now: blistering, sad, righteous, goofy, loving, all-in-all just plain dazzling. Hayes is a young black American male, who occasionally claims to be a Time Lord, his poetry rounds that up and puts it slap bang, unignorably on the page.
“Like no / Culture before us, we relate the way the descendants / Of the raped relate to the descendants of their rapists.” (#32: the poems have no titles beyond their first line)
#37 – Discusses life, through other artworks – “Rilke ends his sonnet Archaic Torso of Apollo saying / ‘You must change your life…'” before finishing: “I live a life / That burns a hole through life, that leaves a scar for life, / That makes me weep for another life. Define life.”
The range of his references and subjects is broad, stunning, sometimes apparently difficult to corral into a coherence, but he pulls it off with elan: on facing pages 44 & 45, he discusses Black America’s use of “the N-word” and then wonders at the glory of the stories we have told ourselves through time, specifically The Aeneid and The Odyssey. This second poem thinks of the majesty, the beauty of these things, before finishing:
“What if it were possible to make a noise so lovely / People would pay to hear it continuously for a century / Or so. Unbelievably, Miles Davis and John Coltrane / Standing within inches of each other didn’t explode.” I mean, yes!
As for the goofy… try this: “The umpteenth thump on the rump of a badunkadunk / Stumps us. The link, the chump, the hunk of plunder. / The umpteenth horny, honky stump speech pumps / A funky rumble over air.” It is of course about POTUS #45.
I don’t know that there is anything particularly sonnet-y about any of these poems, beyond being fourteen lines each: there seems to be no rhyme pattern and little metre. Not that this matters to me.
It is a glory. I can’t wait to read more by him.