• Elina Arbo

LIGHTHEAD: BOOK REVIEW

I’ve always had slight favoritism towards writing that meshes prose and poetry together. Converging the two forms, which are often unnecessarily separated, allows writers to craft a narrative with such a creative, artistic touch— Terrance Hayes takes complete stylistic and descriptive control of this form in Lighthead. Hayes draws inspiration from family, other artists, and memories. From the political climate to the activism that surrounds him. His compositions adapt to each situation, painting the scene and all its nuances like a Basquiat piece.


The opening of the book left me mesmerized for quite a few moments. “I am here because I could never get the hang of Time”, he states. Reading this at a moment where time feels so extremely warped resonated with me. The various lines and thoughts of the first poem, “Lighthead’s Guide to the Galaxy,” created an existential impact and set the tone for the remainder of his poems. His symbolism and metaphors, blended with mysteriousness, leave readers pondering, but so do his more straightforward lines: “You can spend your whole life doing no more than preparing for life and thinking, ‘Is this all there is”? There is a deeply philosophical approach to his writing that is apparent right from the start. He references writing so often, describing the functions of fiction. These observations delve into nearly every aspect of life, including the purpose of art.


But at the same time, Hayes is very human and realistic in his various poems. He addresses some of his favorite artists as close friends. From Gwendolyn Brooks to Marvin Gaye, these personages come to life through his words. There is a personable connection that Hayes makes with his audience: our everyday life and small appreciations have so much meaning and impact on us. For him, his writing exhibits each aspect of life, including those figures whom he admires. There are so many different elements that contribute to our own characters, and attributing that to the artists we take inspiration from is one way that Hayes shows gratitude.


Readers even get multiple impressions into his private life. I personally love the multi-faceted, multi-purpose approach Hayes takes. There is so much to his writing. He takes the time to express the details of his own life, which deepened my connectivity to the poet. For instance, his brother is an important topic that appears throughout many stanzas. His brother’s characteristics combined with Hayes’s various metaphors to describe him creates such an intimate setting. For instance, one metaphor that stood out to me throughout the entirety of the book was the comparison between his brother’s older age and the wearing of multiple coats, to “bear the weight” of family. Hayes stresses the impact siblings have on understanding the world by describing his brother’s influence. He goes even deeper and becomes more personal on the topic in the following poem titled [DELETED CHAPTER].


There is so much substance to what the author voices. Hayes’s attentiveness to the world is reflected in his detailed observations of it. While extremely philosophical and theoretical, he is also very personal and grounded. His uniqueness shines through each word and stanza as he crafts a new reality for us readers to indulge in.

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