Welcome back to Lyric Essentials, where we invite authors to share the work of their favorite poets. This month, Donald Quist has joined us to discuss the work of Terrance Hayes and how poetry impacts writing prose, the musicality of verse, and how form can impact content. As always, we hope you enjoy as much as we did.
Ryleigh Wann: When was the first time you read Terrance Hayes work? Why did it stand out to you then?
Donald Quist: I first heard about Hayes when I was an undergrad, about twenty years ago now. I was struggling through an English minor at a small, predominantly white, Liberal Arts college in South Carolina. My professors often mentioned Hayes to me. Hayes was an alum. I was told he and I shared similar backgrounds, and we both are Black and poetic. Teachers offered his work to me as a kind of model. I was given a copy of Hip Logic and fell in love with the musicality of his verse and the clarity of his poetic imagery.
RW: How has Hayes’s writing inspired your own?
Donald Quist Reads “American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin [“I lock you in an American sonnet that is part prison”]” by Terrance Hayes.
DQ: Hayes has had a significant impact on my work, perhaps most notably in how I approach the construction of narratives. He once said: “I want form to influence my content. I want it to make my language do things that it might not have otherwise done.” His poetry has often inspired me to take chances with my prose, and to seek out forms that serve the ways I’d hope for my narratives to function. It’s why I have essays in the form of lesson plans and stage directions, and short stories constructed out of search engine results and another one as the preface to a fictional anthology.
RW: Why did you choose these poems to specifically?
Donald Quist Reads “For Robert Hayden” by Terrance Hayes
DQ: I chose these poems because they span the length of his career. I think they offer a great representation of his versatility and core themes. Also, they’re pleasurable to read. Like, notice how there’s a physicality to the verses, the employment of verbs, adverbs and syntax that highlight movement, and the narrowing on bodily details. It all works together to remind the reader of the presence of their own flesh. The poems aren’t just heard or viewed, there is a clear intent to make them felt. Damn, it’s good. I attempt to do the same in all my Creative Writing.
RW: What have you been up to lately (life, work, anything!)? Got any news to share?
DQ: I try to stay busy. I have a novel out on submission and I’m working to complete a draft of another book project by the end of the year. Got some upcoming workshops, and I have readings scheduled from my recent essay collection, To Those Bounded.
Read more from this interview at our Patreon.
Terrance Hayes is a contemporary American poet and artist. His most recent publications include American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin (Penguin 2018) and To Float In The Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight (Wave, 2018). Hayes is a Professor of English at New York University.
Find his website here.
Purchase his collection American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin here.
Donald Quist is author of two essay collections, Harbors, a Foreword INDIES Bronze Winner and International Book Awards Finalist, and TO THOSE BOUNDED. He has a linked story collection, For Other Ghosts. His writing has appeared in AGNI, North American Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Rumpus, and was Notable in Best American Essays 2018. He is creator of the online nonfiction series PAST TEN. Donald has received fellowships from Sundress Academy for the Arts and Kimbilio Fiction. He has served as a Gus T. Ridgel fellow for the English PhD program at University of Missouri and Director of the MFA in Writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Ryleigh Wann earned her MFA in poetry from UNC Wilmington where she taught poetry and served as the comics editor for Ecotone. Her writing can be found in Longleaf Review, Rejection Letters, Flypaper Lit, and elsewhere. Ryleigh currently lives in North Carolina by way of Michigan. Learn more at ryleighwann.com