To Float in the Space Between

Terrance Hayes. Wave, $25 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-940696-61-4
National Book Award-winning poet Hayes (American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin) plunges into creative nonfiction with this book about another poet, Etheridge Knight, cautioning readers that “this is not a biography.” Throughout, Hayes challenges genre constraints, bringing together personal reflections, drawings, and poems by Knight and himself, and constructing a work that is part speculative biography, part autobiography, and part critical essay. He offers some insight into Knight’s life, explaining that he was a Korean War veteran who got hooked on narcotics and served time in prison for armed robbery. Prison was where he found poetry and eventually became part of the Black Arts Movement. Hayes shares his own life stories, too, which include going to college on a basketball scholarship, making his own discovery of poetry there, and dramatically meeting his birth father as an adult. In the text’s most effective moments, Hayes links his life’s details to Knight’s, such as by noting that neither of them set out to become poets. Such reflections stitch together the book’s various components around the question: “How does someone become a poet?” In this wonderfully lyrical text, Hayes suggests it isn’t in the details of an individual’s life, but through a hard-to-trace yet vital network of influences. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2018
Release date: 09/01/2018
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