Nationally acclaimed poet Hayes to give reading at CCU
Born and raised in Columbia, S.C., Hayes earned a bachelor’s degree in painting and English from Coker University, where he was an Academic All-American on the men’s basketball team, and an M.F.A. from the University of Pittsburgh. His acclaimed work has won numerous awards: American Sonnets won the 2019 Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award for poetry, 2020 Bobbitt Prize, 2018 National Book Award in Poetry, and 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. His 2015 collection How to Be Drawn was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and won the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Poetry. Hayes’ prose collection, To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight (2018), received the 2019 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism and was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction. Hayes was named a recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2014 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2022.
Dan Albergotti, an award-winning poet and professor of poetry in CCU’s Department of English who will introduce Hayes at the reading, noted the significance of the guest artist’s visit in terms of public profile.
“Hayes is one of the most accomplished and high-profile poets we’ve ever hosted,” said Albergotti. “[CCU President Michael] Benson wants CCU’s reach to be ‘unapologetically ambitious,’ and here we are.”
Hayes’ work has been praised for its technique, its humor, its pitch, and its lyricism. Albergotti noted that Hayes has in fact coined a new form of poetry, called the Golden Shovel, that has soared in popularity since he created it in 2010, in a poem of the same name, based on Gwendolyn Brooks’ iconic poem “We Real Cool.” The golden shovel form applies a single word of a corresponding, previously published poem to the end of each line of the original new work, progressing sequentially, as an analysis and homage.
“Hayes has created the new form of 21st century American poetry,” said Albergotti.
The poet’s upbringing in Columbia and education in Hartsville, S.C., makes him an especially important model to CCU’s in-state students.
“To welcome back a native South Carolinian who has achieved his level of success is beyond what some of my local students might imagine possible for themselves,” said Albergotti. “I always tell my students: ‘Poetry is an excruciatingly difficult art that takes a lifetime to come even close to mastering. But if you devote yourself to it, you improve exponentially. Everyone in the room has the potential to be the next Whitman or Dickinson. Don’t imagine that that’s not possible for you.’ Hayes, a kid from Columbia and one of the most decorated poets of our time, is a grand example.”
Tiffany Hollis, assistant professor in the Spadoni College of Education and Social Sciences who specializes in mental health and trauma-informed practices in schools, said poetry, especially in nontraditional forms, offers students an effective channel for expressing themselves.
“I used poetry as an outlet myself when I was going through difficult times in my life; I used it in my work with K-12 students, and I use it now, in higher education,” said Hollis, who is also a spoken word poet. “I find that students who may not talk or share in discussions or want to speak truth to their power in a normative way of discussion will do so in a poem.”
Hollis said Hayes’ work in particular is accessible to students of color because of its form as well as its topics.
“Hayes’ work is like a tool of resistance against the norm and how people expect poetry to look and/or be,” said Hollis. “First of all, as a Black male, he’s saying, ‘This is how I choose to do it. This is what makes me uniquely me, and you can do it too.’ His poetry also addresses constraints of race, music, culture, masculinity and what it means – what it traditionally means but also what it should mean or what it could mean – so his work brings a lot to be examined and critically evaluated.”
For more information on Hayes’ reading, contact Easton Selby, associate dean and professor of visual arts in the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts, at 843-349-6474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.