Terrance Hayes (How to Be Drawn) has reached a new level in his work as he delivers 70 sonnets that reflect what it means to be a black American. It's important to note that these poems were composed during President Trump's first 200 days in office and encapsulate not only historical moments of adversity toward black people, but also the present-day dialogue of Black Lives Matter.
Hayes writes, "Are you not the color of this country's current threat/ Advisory? ...Are you not a flame of hollow Hellos & Hell Nos,/ A wild, tattered spirit versus what?" He addresses the recently murdered and their murderers, creating poetry from the names of shooting victims.
Emmett Till, Jimi Hendrix, Toni Morrison and many others make their way into his lyrics as he ponders what it means to be black, in love, doing drugs, having sex. He studies the insidious way racism still pervades the culture, whether through lyrics in a rap song sung by a white woman in the privacy of her car or the Confederate statues that still stand in many places. Hayes's complex use of language, his ability to slant rhyme and to build a staccato tempo enhances these sonnets. The effect is musical, beautiful and haunting, a thorough meditation on black America and the culture that surrounds it, in all its myriad variations. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer