American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (Penguin, 2018)












The New Yorker

The American Poetry Review

Boston Review

Connotation Press

Poetry Magazine

Poetry Magazine

Poetry Magazine

Poetry Magazine

Academy of American Poets

Academy of American Poets

Academy of American Poets


How To Be Drawn (Penguin, 2015)

Link to notes and references for poems in How To Be Drawn



“Reading Terrance Hayes’ thick, gorgeous, knowing, endlessly surprising poems is like spending a long evening with your most soulful and garrulous friend, one who you haven’t seen in ages. You will cover the waterfront. You will fall out laughing. At some point, your heart will break and you will cry. You stay out too late and will leave feeling that you have been told the total truth, and that yHTBDour friend has laid himself bare because that is the urgency and necessity of words: to make human connection, by any means necessary.

The possibilities of language seem infinite in these poems. Hayes is Zora Neale Hurston “telling lies” on the porch, or Langston Hughes on a ship deck in Marrakesh. He’s Martin Puryear making an elegant ladder to the sky. He’s talking trash in the barbershop, or on the basketball court. He’s Walt Whitman, for sure: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself.” He is a bluesman: the poems carry that much sorrow and than much love. He is, of course, a painter looking and seeing everything…

With every new collection I think Terrance Hayes has outdone himself. At the end of all the brilliance, after the pyrotechnics are past and the dust from the fireworks has settled, I am left, in these poems, with a true beating heart.” –Elizabeth Alexander

  • From Publishers Weekly
    Starred Review. Hayes delivers another stunner, following up his 2010 National Book Award–winning Lighthead with a collection that sees the poet thinking more deeply about perception—the public and private, the viewed and ignored. In the opening poem, readers receive a warning—“Never mistake what it is for what it looks like”—before being taken through a hall of mirrors, in each one a reflection of race, art, and the makeup of America today. Hayes cops from crime reports and q&as, charts and instructional guides, toying with form to paint the realities of life for modern black Americans. Scenes are drawn with razor sharp lines: NWA plays idly “at a penthouse party with no black people”; the ghosts of lynched slaves are invoked to haunt a “white man/ with Confederate pins.” The poems pull from sources as seemingly disparate as Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Vladimir Mayakovsky, and evoke the souls of Walt Whitman and Ralph Ellison. The work hurdles between violent beauty (“I want to be as inexplicable/ as something hanging a dozen feet in the air”) and stark, philosophical truth telling (“Humanity endures because it is,/ at most, an idea”). Hayes manages not only to reassess the visual, but also to ask what we do with the information once we have it. (Apr.)
  • Resurrections, Do-Overs, And Second Lives: A 2015 Poetry Preview: “Hayes practices what he preaches — “nothing is more durable than feeling” — in poems that pay tribute to and argue with artistic forebears (“hubris in Ralph Ellison,/ Duke Ellington’s shadow, a paragraph/ on the feathered headdress of Marcus Garvey”) and comment all over on the act of artistic creation itself. “–Craig Morgan Teicher, npr

 Poems from How To Be Drawn:


Who Are The Tribes (Pilot Books, 2011), a limited edition chapbook

      WhoAreTheTribes chapbook




Lighthead (Penguin, 2010)

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. —New York Times

A POEM FROM LIGHTHEAD:  “Arbor for Butch”

Wind in a Box

Wind in a Box (Penguin, 2006)

Opening Terrance Hayes’ new book of poetry is like being drawn into whirling tornadoes of emotions, words and poetic styles, revealing a poet not afraid to take chances or take on any subject, no matter how fraught with cultural land mines. —Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Hayes is erudite, but also necessarily rageful; he tackles race relations, most tenuously among African-Americans, peeling skin color away to get at the beating heart beneath. But there’s bones and gristle too between the outer and inner parts of these poems, and Hayes doesn’t neglect the physical – body image, sexual congress both consensual and not; see “Woofer (When I Consider the African-American)” for an example of the former, and “A Girl in the Woods” for the latter. He’s smart, which can be a crutch with some writers, but he handles his smarts like a hot coal, tossing it from hand to hand so he doesn’t get burnt. —Larry O. Dean


Hip Logic Cover

Hip Logic (Penguin 2002)

What struck me about Hip Logic is how it rises above much of the strife plaguing contemporary poetry by blending multiple genres, rather than conforming to one. Hayes takes elements of form and turns them upside down…–Randomville

Hayes displays an ability to keep strict control of rhyme (paint and ain’t or train, lain, complains, and name) but in surprising and innovative ways.–Web Del Sol Review of Books

A POEM FROM HIP LOGIC“The Same City” (Audio only)

MuscularMusic Original Cover

Muscular Music (Tia Chucha 1999; Carnegie Mellon Contemporary Classics 2006)

At the end of a poem that includes Bill Strayhorn, Andrew Carnegie, and Dante, Hayes says, “I know one of the rings of hell is reserved for men who refuse to weep. So I let it come. And it does not move from me.” These lines reflect what is always at the core of Hayes’s poetry: a faithfulness, not to traditional forms or themes, but to heart and honesty. It is a core bounded by and cradled by a passion for the music in all things.–Good Reads





The Winter 2010-11 issue of Ploughshares, guest-edited by Terrance Hayes. Ploughshares, a journal of new writing, is guest-edited serially by prominent writers who explore different and personal visions, aesthetics, and literary circles.

This issue of Ploughshares features selections of poetry and prose by National Book Award finalist Terrance Hayes, including new work from poets Wanda Coleman, Major Jackson, Denis Johnson, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Jericho Brown and stories from Ben Percy, Christine Sneed, and Hilary Masters. The volume also includes a profile of Hayes, an introduction by Hayes, as well as book reviews and more.

Link to Ploughshares Introduction: “The Sentenced Museum”:

  • Excerpt: “The museum houses some of the longest, shortest, and oldest sentences ever written, as well as a surprising number of downright egregious sentences. Some say imperfect lines don’t belong in a museum, but I think a sentence’s shortcomings make it human. And anyway this museum is not after perfection. Perfection is not only oppressive, it’s boring. One should move through a museum at what Didier Maleuvre calls the “tempo of consciousness”:“the dreamy pause, the regress and ingress of reverie, the winding progress that is engagement.” The same should be said of a truly fine sentence. Sentences, like museums, hold everything the imagination can hold.”

Pittsburgh Noir and    USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series

         image        pittsburghnoir cover

SHORT STORY: “Still Air”

Launched with the summer ’04 award-winning best-seller Brooklyn Noir, Akashic Books continues its groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies. Each book is comprised of all-new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book. Featuring brand-new stories by: Stewart O’Nan, Hilary Masters, Lila Shaara, Rebecca Drake, Kathleen George, Paul Lee, K. C.Constantine, Nancy Martin, Kathryn Miller Haines, Terrance Hayes, Carlos Delgado, Aubrey Hirsch, Tom Lipinski, and Reginald McKnight.

  • Excerpt:”On the second floor I stood at a window in the master bedroom. Brick and sky, metal and wood, concrete and dirt, you already know what I saw out there: all the shit that gives air something to lean on. No cops had come to find Amp’s killers, but I knew once the woman called, they’d be out in front before I could make it back down stairs. And I’d have to do something. Say something. I thought I could already hear the sirens. I thought I could hear dogs trying to match the sound. I sat in the middle of the floor with the hammer in my lap. I had blood on my shirt and pants. I wasn’t crying. I was barely breathing. “

Soul Soldiers : African Americans and the Vietnam era / edited by Samuel W. Black

Soul Soldiers Book Cover

ESSAY: “The Long Shadow of War”

Even as African American men and women headed to Vietnam to fight for their country and show their patriotism, they faced racism in the ranks as did their families on the home front. This stunning book, which accompanies the exhibition, Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, looks at black life through the eyes of veterans during the civil rights era by bring together critical and cultural analysis, photography, memoir and oral histories that recall the horrors of war, the complexities of race and the duality of African American life in the 1960s and ʼ70s. With a foreword by Albert French, author of the goundbreaking memoir Patches of Fire, this book captures the spirit of the African American experience, highlighting the literary expression of Vietnam Vets and the groundswell of black culture and consciousness in this tumultuous time.

  • Excerpt: “When I met my biological father, Earthell “Butch” Tyler Jr., for the first time in February of 2004, he did not begin by telling me the year he was born or the names of his siblings and his mother. He told me his daddy, my grandfather, was a war hero. Earthell Tyler Sr. had been killed saving another soldier’s life in Vietnam.   “There were medals to prove it,” Butch said. A Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He promised to find them and show me. I’d traveled 500 miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the place I lived, to Columbia, South Carolina, the place I was born. I’d traveled 32 years as the son of James L. Hayes, the man who’d raised me, to find Butch the man whose blood ran through me.”