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American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes
Jun 19, 2018 | 112 Pages
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    Jun 19, 2018 | 112 Pages

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    Jun 19, 2018 | 112 Pages

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“Hayes set himself the challenge of writing political poems in the guise of love poems.  Each one is distinct:  Some are sermons, some are swoons.  They are acrid with tear gas, and they unravel with desire . . . These poems play with different registers, but they return to lamentation, to annihilating grief for ‘all the black people I’m tired of losing,’ one narrator says.” – Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

“A diary of survival during a period when black men are in constant danger . . . This is one of the deepest accounts I have read in poetry of what it feels like to have one’s body fetishized as an object but criminalized as a force.” – Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker

“The right poetry collection for right now . . . Hayes’ writing demonstrates a serious commitment to revising, extending, and advancing American poetry while recording, celebrating, and mourning black American life.  These aesthetic and intellectual preoccupations also charge American Sonnets.” –Walton Muyumba, The Los Angeles Times

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin is a gift in a fraught moment. These sonnets, existential, political, personal, retain a moral ferocity and urgency . . . Hayes’ inhabits the deeply troubling historical moment.  But these poems are timeless, by which I mean these sonnets annihilate any difference between past and future.” – Faraz Rizvi, The Millions

“Hayes reinvigorates a classic form . . . [he] examines what it means to be an American, to belong, and how it feels to be haunted and hunted by violent racism . . . expect to be challenged on nearly every page.” – Elizabeth Lund, The Washington Post
“Overwhelming in every sense.  Overwhelming in its brilliance, yes, but also overwhelming in its pacing, its style . . . The book, despite its breadth and clever turns, is a confrontation . . . His poems are like the slow and steady picking of a lock, until the door handle clicks.” – Hanif Abdurraqib, Poets and Writers

“You will find all of [Hayes’s] signature pleasures and provocations in this new collection: dense lyricism, associative word play, the political, the interpersonal, explorations and interrogations of race and gender and sex and the body and violence and power and history and time.” Kenyon Review 

“Pain and poignancy collide in this collection of seventy sonnets . . . perhaps the takeaway of Mr. Hayes’ work here is that what lies in between is heart – a pounding of poems that stays in the chest long after the pages are set down. These poems stay with me, they linger, they poke and ask questions, and this is the book’s success.  What more can one ask from poetry?” – Cameron Barnett, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Hayes addresses this marvelous series of 70 free-verse sonnets to his potential assassin: a nameless, faceless embodiment of America’s penchant for racially motivated violence. The poems are redolent of his signature rhythmic artistry and wordplay . . . Inventive as ever, Hayes confronts America’s myriad ills with unflinching candor, while leaving space for love, humor, and hope.” Publishers Weekly

“With this incomparable collection, Hayes  joins others in taking on the sonnet, reinvigorating its form and reimagining the possibilities of American literature.” – Booklist


National Book Award LONGLIST 2018

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