How To Be Drawn

Penguin. 2015. 112p. ISBN 9780143126881. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780698183193. POETRY
This collection from 2014 MacArthur Fellow Hayes (Lighthead) is a testament both to the author's facility (which can be, as the synopsis says, "mesmerizing") and misguided verbosity. Each of the three sections—"Troubled Bodies," "Invisible Souls," and "A Circling Mind"—includes experiments with form, such as "Portrait of Etheridge Knight in the Style of a Crime Report Part I" (and "Part II"), "Who are the Tribes," and "Some Maps To Indicate Pittsburgh." Overall, though, this book could have used an aggressive editor, especially for the narrative poems, some of which stretch to several pages and rely on voice alone to transmit substance. Even the poems that stray from clichés do so intermittently. Strikingly clever, effectual lines ("moving at a speed that leaves a stain on the breeze" in "The Deer"; or "I was trying to play like the first mechanic/ asked to repair the first car" in "The Rose Has Teeth") are buried within repetition that doesn't seem to serve the poem.
VERDICT Though Hayes is an important author to consider, his work here doesn't always measure up.
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