The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

MSU welcomes award-winning poet Terrance Hayes

Literary critic Cornelius Eady said of Terrance Hayes, this year’s College of Arts and Sciences’ Institute for the Humanities writer-in-residence, “First you’ll marvel at his skill, his near-perfect pitch, his disarming humor, his brilliant turns of phrase.” Eady went on to say of Hayes, “Then you’ll notice the grace, the tenderness, the unblinking truth-telling just beneath his lines, the open and generous way he takes in our world.” 

Hayes will hold a public reading at 7 p.m. tonight in Taylor Auditorium in McCool Hall. Hayes will be on campus through Friday.

 William Anthony Hay, director of the Institute for the Humanities, said this is the second annual writer-in-residence hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences’ Institute for the Humanities.

“Last year we had Robert Olen Butler, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for students and faculty to work with a leading creative writer.”

Hays said the program features MSU’s commitment to the humanities.

“We invited Hayes on the recommendation of faculty in the creative writing program,” he said. “They were impressed not only with the range and quality of Hayes work, but also his public readings.  He’s a prize-winning poet.” 

Catherine Pierce, director of MSU’s creative writing program, said Hayes was chosen as this year’s writer-in-residence based on the depth of his work.

“We invited Hayes to be this year’s writer-in-residence because he’s one of the most acclaimed and most innovative poets writing today,” she said. “To have him here this week, sharing his work and his insights, is a fantastic opportunity for MSU students.” 

While visiting campus, Hayes will not only read from one of his five published books of poetry, but he will also visit students in creative writing courses as well as hold office hours in English associate professor Tommy Anderson’s office, as Anderson is currently on sabbatical.  

Pierce said students will have an opportunity to discuss Hayes’ work and ask him questions while he visits classes.

“I hope they’ll leave the conversation ready to take their fresh insights to their own work,” she said.

After receiving an invitation to come to MSU, Hayes was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, commonly described in the media as a “genius grant.” In addition to this award, Hayes has been granted the Whiting Writers Award, three Best American Poetry selections and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the Guggenheim Foundation, along with other awards.

Rich Raymond, professor and head of the Department of English, said Hayes’ one-on-one interaction with students will be conducive to their productivity as well as interest in literature.

“I would encourage them (students) to come and read not just because he’s famous with all these awards, but because they’re going to discover in hearing his poetry that there’s a real connection between the writing and the life that it portrays,” he said. “I think it’ll reinforce their instincts that tell them that literature matters — poetry matters. It’s highly relevant to their own existence and to those who open the doors to it.”

Pierce said she has heard Hayes speak on prior occasions, and she is excited to once again be englightened.

“I can promise that his reading will be excellent — engaging and powerful. He’ll share his poems, but will also take questions and talk about his work, and I think students will leave with a broader —  and inspiring —  understanding of what poetry can be and do,” she said.

Tonight’s poetry reading will be followed by a book signing and refreshments. 

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
MSU welcomes award-winning poet Terrance Hayes