Terrence Hayes, Kanye West, and How to Get Through Winter

by Elie, Managing Editor

4/2 - Richard Siken Tells Me We'll Never Get Used To It, by Po, EIC
4/3 - William Carlos Williams: This Is Just To Say, by Layah, CD
4/4 - We Are All Writers On the Same Dreadful Typewriter 
as Allen Ginsberg, by Jenny, EE
4/5 - Pablo Neruda and the Quest for Surrender, by Elie, ME
4/6 - Let's Shake the Dust, Anis Mojgani, by Layah, CD
4/11 - Terrence Hayes, Kanye West, and How to Get Through Winter 
by Elie, ME 

This ink. This name. This blood. This blunder.
     -Wind in a Box, line 1

Terrence Hayes

Terrance Hayes was not a writer I intended to like. The South Carolinian poet was introduced to me in a writing seminar during my senior year of college. Coincidentally, it happened to be around the same months that I had been getting into the music of Kanye West. A good time to be exploring other people’s fantasies, the darker and more twisted the better. It had been a torpid autumn that led into a frosty, relentless winter, and I’d been dealing with unexpected muteness after having been able to scream my throat raw with no effect. Or maybe it was that I had become blind after having had sight wrenched upon me, having been privy to such spectacles I’d been convinced were inexorably mine. Or maybe it was becoming celibate after having been let loose in the naked corners of Hamburg in 1963. Maybe it was the feeling of impudent pride reaching its maximum height and subsequently imploding. Maybe it was the weather or something like that. Maybe it was my absent girlfriend. Maybe it was just that I was very unhappy with my present station in life on an all too regular basis. Whatever it was, there was something oddly comforting in the bombastic declaration of Kanye West’s bravado, in his rallying cry for hedonists the world over to unite, all of it contained in the spat-out refrain: “Everybody knows I’m a muthafucking monster.”

Kanye West

There was something so safe about squandering away and seeking shelter behind monsters back then. Perhaps it was no coincidence that my poetry teacher (who I harbored a secret crush on, what with her piercing blue eyes, crystal smile, teenager’s body, and all) chose to introduce me to Terrance Hayes the very week I crossed paths with Mr. West.

When I consider the much discussed dilemma
of the African-American, I think not of the diasporic
middle passing, unchained, juke, jock, and jiving
sons and daughters of what sleek dashikied poets
and tether fisted Nationalists commonly call Mother
Africa, but of an ex-girlfriend who was the child
of a black-skinned Ghanaian beauty and Jewish-
American, globetrotting ethomusicologist.
     -Woofer (When I Consider the African-American), lines 1-8

Um, what? I read on, read about how we clawed free the stones and filled their beds with soil and covered the soil with sod as if we owned the earth (Root, lines 6-9) and houses burning with wonder and hammocks drunk with wind (Root, lines 35-36) and powder-white love brimming over the rim of champagne-eyed love letters aimed at the King of Pop. Kanye had his own obsession with Michael Jackson, but whereas his was confusion and agony over his idol’s passing (“Something wrong/I hold my head/MJ gone/Our nigga dead”), Hayes’s was a softer, more encouraging form of preservation through endearment.

Anyone can go back
to the summers that were as clear as water,
and I’m assuming you too sat at opened windows
and listened to the world.
     -I. MJ Fan Letter, lines 52-55

On the one hand, my disease was being force fed the fortifying filth of Kanye’s well-documented descent into monsterdom (“The best living or dead hands down, huh/less talk, more head right now, huh”), yet I felt rays of something positive, something life-affirming, ascending up from the ink comprising the words in my battered copy of Wind in a Box.

Some of us are monsters, I realized. Well, no, many of us are monsters, and in a mélange of varied ways. But beneath the fur and fangs there is something more cohesive that can be tapped into and brought to a patient simmer. It’s a unifying force that Kanye’s anger and disgust radiated almost as strongly as did Terrance’s surrealist sentiments. The core of it all was a barbaric yawp, sounded over the rooftops of Queens College, to be a person shaped by experience, to allow experiences to crop up, to take on their own shapes. To fight to for allowance, and to allow the fight to dictate further action. This ink. This name. This blood. This blunder. I spilled mucho ink trying to get to the center, to understand the pull these two poets had upon me. I named my poems after my meditation. I bled into creeks clogging up forgotten swaths of untouched grass hidden under the makeshift mask of slushy snow. And boy did I blunder. And I read. I read and I read and I read. And I listened. Here there be monsters.

And it all made winter that much easier to get through.



  1. […] the Quest for Surrender, by Elie, ME 4/6 – Let's Shake the Dust, Anis Mojgani, by Layah, CD 4/11 – Terrence Hayes, Kanye West, and How to Get Through Winter, by Elie, ME 4/12 – Sylvia Plath Died Before I Had Time, by Po, EIC  4/16 – Billy Corgan Blinks […]

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LANDFILLS is a grassroots literary, arts and culture online collective based in Chicago. All work is original, except the featured images that accompany text posts (which are blatantly stolen from tumblr.com). Complaints should be directed to Po via Twitter.
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