Lighthead

by Terrance Hayes

Paper Book, 2010

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : Penguin Books, 2010.

Description

The fourth collection by the author portrays the light-headedness of a mind trying to pull against gravity and time. It sets what it means to be "light longing for lightness" against what it means to "burn with all the humanity fire strips away." Hayes navigates melancholy, irreverence, and the sublime.--From publisher description.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jesseeclemens
In this book, Terrence Hayes does something that I've never quite seen done before; he's smoothly synthesized the sound-and-emotion-oriented style of spoken-word poetry with the artful arrangement and order of more conceptual, academic poetry. For that, I have to give him some five-star love, even though a lot of the poems talk a lot about African-American identity and racism in a way that I have a hard time taking into my own experience. Yet the guy also references David Bowie, Wallace Stevens, "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Antony and the Johnsons...so it's blazingly clear that he isn't a one-trick rapper/poet.

Really though, some dazzling stuff here, particularly his invention of the "pecha kucha" form (based on a style of Japanese slideshow used for business presentations). The tension between the "slides"/stanzas and their individual titles fleshes out the concepts in an even deeper way, even beyond the surface-level puzzles that he puts forward, so that the pieces end up working on multiple levels and kind of driving you insane and force you to read them over and over, getting more and more out of them each time. There's some game-changing stuff in there.

As mentioned before, I love how omnivorous he is with his references and also with his themes; love, family, the personal vs. cultural/racial history, music...there's even some funny shit in there too!

For all the brou-ha-ha about the National Book Award committee being so ivory-tower-y, I can't fault them picking this book, at least. It's just so fluid and deft and thoughtful, and perfectly emblematic of how other cultures are slowly infiltrating and destroying the "old dead white men" paradigm of modern poetry, and re-making it into something way more strong and deep and hardy, giving it more of a fighting chance to become a significant part of more people's lives. This is a service Hayes does without being at all self-conscious, and the fruits of his labor are pretty damn miraculous.
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