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Terrance Hayes’ poems are formally inventive and emotionally uninhibited. In this Articulate exclusive, he reads his “American Sonnet for the New Year.”

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Terrance Hayes
Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes is an esteemed poet known for his honest and clear-eyed treatment of masculinity, race, music, and the modern world.

Born in 1971 in Columbia, SC, Hayes earned a BA at nearby Coker College and an MFA at the University of Pittsburgh. His first poetry collection, Muscular Music (1999), won a prestigious Whiting Award. Among his other accolades, he received a National Book Award for Lighthead (2010), a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur “Genius Grant.”

Hayes’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and other renowned publications. Selections from his sixth collection of poetry, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (2018), formed Cycles of My Being, an operatic song cycle commissioned by Opera Philadelphia, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Carnegie Hall.

Hayes is a professor of creative writing at New York University.


things got terribly ugly incredibly quickly
things got ugly embarrassingly quickly
actually things got ugly unbelievably quickly
honestly things got ugly seemingly infrequently
initially things got ugly ironically usually
awfully carefully things got ugly unsuccessfully
occasionally things got ugly mostly painstakingly
quietly seemingly things got ugly beautifully
infrequently things got ugly sadly especially
frequently unfortunately things got ugly
increasingly obviously things got ugly suddenly
embarrassingly forcefully things got really ugly
regularly truly quickly things got really incredibly
ugly things will get less ugly inevitably hopefully