The Influence Of Race And Southern Culture On The Works Of Terrance Hayes

2639 words - 11 pages

The South is a region of the United States known for lively bluegrass and jazz music, African American literature, fine cuisine, family unity, a strong prevalence of religion and racial stereotypes. These customs, important to this area, have spurred artists to write about their experiences in the South. Black American poet and educator, Terrance Hayes, has been greatly influenced by the culture of the Southern United States. Terrance Hayes’ works reflect Southern influences and how being a member of the black community in the South has shaped his identity and his perception of the world.
Terrance Hayes tested many avenues before pursuing a career in English. In fact, he “never even considered studying poetry as a child” (Alumnus Profile). Hayes sparked an interest of the English Language in high school, which has transformed into a successful poetry and teaching career. Hayes was born on November 18, 1971 in Columbia, South Carolina. He attended Coker College in 1990 on a basketball scholarship to study visual arts and graduated in 1994 with All-American recognition (Casper). Hayes privately wrote poems all throughout high school and finally showed his work to his English professor during his senior year of college, who urged him to apply to a creative writing program. Hayes graduated in 1997 from University of Pitt with a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry, and became a mentor to aspiring African American poets. (Alumnus Profile). Hayes incorporates his African American culture into his poetry in these three select poems: a Japanese styled Pecha Kucha titled, “Arbor for Butch,” a poem regarding race stigmatization titled, “What I am” and a final poem illustrating the power of the Black American voice, “Lighthead’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
After Hayes graduated , he moved to Japan where he taught in an exchange program for a year (Lacey). While abroad, Hayes founded a new style of poetry. A Japanese presentation format for architects, photographers and artists, known as Pecha Kucha, involves twenty-second presentations on a series of twenty images (Casper; National). This Pecha Kucha, “Arbor for Butch” highlights Hayes’ lyrical style and the influences of family and cultural history on the black community. Every section has a subtitle, each of which are named after a piece by American Sculptor, Martin Puryear (Martin). Each stanza of “Arbor for Butch” reflects on a time in Hayes’ childhood where the Southern culture had influenced his life.
The history of the South dates back hundreds of years and its cultural influences are prevalent, as explored in “Arbor for Butch.” This historical impact on the culture is a focus of Hayes’ works. In the poem, “Arbor for Butch”, Hayes describes what is like to grow up in a place, “where history shades everything, (2)” a quote from the stanza titled “Thicket,” and “where sap jewels the bark and the teeth of the saws are sticky and bittersweet (7)” from the stanza titled, “Sanctuary.” Hayes repeatedly...

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