In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country's past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares.
His new book, a short volume of sonnets, 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 that propels that entire cycle forward ... These poems are acutely aware of the literary tradition Hayes works in, with as many references to James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, to Derek Walcott and Langston Hughes, wrestling with the implications of blackness and literary tradition. Hayes’ inhabits the deeply troubling historical moment. But these poems are timeless.
Hayes innovates new poetic forms and hacks the codes of canonical containers, pimping them up dynamically ... His writing demonstrates a serious commitment to revising, extending and advancing American poetry while recording, celebrating and mourning black American life ... Hayes improvises voices and selves that challenge and attempt escape from virulent, American modes of masculinity.
American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, the new book by Terrance Hayes, has a claim to be among the first fully-fledged works to reckon with the presidency of Donald Trump — and one of the most surprising ... Each one is distinct: Some are sermons, some are swoons. They are acrid with tear gas, and they unravel with desire ... Hayes loves language; he loves the round vowel and crisp consonant. He loves to stuff a line full of sound ('the lunk, the chump, the hunk of plunder'), to write for the ear as well as the eye. His words call to be read aloud, to be tasted.