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National Book Award Winner Kicks Off 2018 Visiting Writers Series
Author Terrance Hayes speaks from a stage to a crowd of students with a 'Visiting Writers Series' banner in the background.

Dozens of students packed into the Student Life Center in Lincroft on Feb. 7 for the kickoff of this year’s Visiting Writers Series, featuring a live reading and Q&A session with award-winning poet Terrance Hayes.

Hayes, winner of the 2010 National Book Award for Poetry and recipient of both a MacArthur Genius Award and the NAACP Image Award, read a variety of selections from his forthcoming collection American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins.

The poems, touching on everything from politics, race and popular culture to stink bugs, the rapper Gucci Mane and poet Emily Dickinson, showcased Hayes’ unique ability to mix vivid imagery and melodic structure with raw emotion and blunt observation.

“The black poet would love to say his century began with Hughes or, God forbid, Wheatley, but actually it began with all the poetry weirdos and worriers, warriors, poetry whiners and winos falling from ship bows, sunset bridges and windows,” read Hayes. “In a second I’ll tell you how little
writing rescues. My hunch is that Sylvia Plath was not especially fun company. A drama queen, thin-skinned and skittery, she thought her poems were ordinary. What do you call a visionary who does not recognize her vision?”

Hayes concluded his talk with an open Q&A session, fielding questions from students about his writing process, his views on poetry and his unique take on artistic inspiration.

Students, faculty and community members listen to a poetry reading by Terrance Hayes in the Student Life Center.

Students, faculty and community members listen to a poetry reading by Terrance Hayes in the Student Life Center on Feb. 7.

“I don’t believe in inspiration,” said Hayes, explaining that he writes for hours every day, even when he knows the final product won’t see the light of day.

“You can’t wait on inspiration. I’ve had inspiration maybe three or four times in my life, where I felt, ‘Oh, the poem is right there for me.’ But otherwise you have to go looking for it. Inspiration suggests that there is no work involved in what we do. But it’s work. It’s worthwhile work, for sure, but it’s work. I can’t wait around for inspiration.”

Hayes’ appearance served as the kickoff for the 2018 Visiting Writers Series, which will continue with readings by acclaimed authors in March and April. For specific dates and more information, click here or email Professor Suzanne Parker at sparker@brookdalecc.eduAll programs begin at 7 p.m. in the Student Life Center. Admission is free, with a $3 suggested donation to the Brookdale Creative Writing Club.

“It’s wonderful to bring this level of artistry into Brookdale and share that with the student body,” said graphic design major and Creative Writing Club member Connor Wean, following Hayes’ talk. “It shows you the power that creative writing can have. Seeing people in the audience tonight, looking at their expressions, you could see people light up at some of the imagery Terrance creates with his words.

“It’s incredibly important for younger students to experience what’s out there in terms of artistry,” Wean added. “Art, art of all kinds, builds on itself and creates this amazing collage of creativity. Our next visiting writer, for example, is a science fiction author. So we try to get interesting speakers from all backgrounds and all walks of life.”

Check out more photos from Terrance Hayes’ reading and Q&A here.