So to Speak

Since the publication of his first collection, Muscular Music, in 1999, Terrance Hayes has been one of America’s most exciting and innovative poets, winning acclaim for sly, twisting, jazzy poems that put “invincibly restless wordplay at the service of strong emotions” (The New York Times Book Review).

A tree frog sings to overcome its fear of birds, talking cats tell jokes in the Jim Crow South, and a father addresses his daughter in the lyric fables, folk sonnets, quarantine quatrains, and ekphrastic do-it-yourself sestinas of So to Speak, Hayes’s seventh collection. Bob Ross paints your portrait, green beans bling in the mouth of Lil Wayne, and elegies for the late David Berman and George Floyd unfold amid the pandemic. These wondrous poems are lyric germinations of the often-incomprehensible predicaments of the present, as Hayes shapes language into figures of music and music into figures of language.