Poet Terrance Hayes honored at Troy University

Published 6:00 pm Friday, May 5, 2023

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An honored and humbling day.

Those were the feelings Terrance Hayes expressed upon receiving the 2023 Hall-Waters Prize at Troy University’s International Arts Center on Friday, April 28.

The positive response to Hayes’ presentation from Troy University students prior to the awarding of the Hall-Waters Prize was an indication that self-expression through poetry continues to be understandable communication.

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Hayes’ acknowledgment of the meaningfulness of the Hall-Waters Prize was coupled with his understanding of its significance.

The Hall-Waters Award and Lecture Series is designed to complement the academic life of Troy University by bringing, to campus, outstanding scholars, authors, artists and others who will add new dimension to established curricula and programs.

The “Prize” is named in memory of Wade H. Hall, Sr. and Sarah Waters Hall, the parents of Dr. Wade Hall, a Troy alumnus, teacher, author, scholar, collector and philanthropist.

Terrance Hayes, professor of English at New York University, is known as one of the most decorated living American poets. He is the author of seven collections of poetry. His collection, “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin” has received several awards, including the Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award for poetry along with other distinguished awards.

As a native of South Carolina, Hayes said his heritage often shows through his work,

“Without much thought or effort,” he said. “In my work, I’m always talking about the South.”

Hayes said anytime he uses a religious reference it comes from where he’s from and how he was raised.

Terrance Hayes referred to his language as his music.

“I like music and that was the “instrument” I had,” he said. “Is language music, first, or is music language?”

Hayes answered his question.

“Language is the music that everybody has,” he said.  “For me, through my music, I am trying to make equality between language and music.”

Language? Music?

Either is one, Hayes said.

Terrance Hayes is one among those who have made significant contributions to Southern heritage and culture in history, literature or the arts.

He joins past recipients of the Hall-Waters Prize including Rep. John Lewis, Bobbie Ann Mason, Pat Conroy, Natasha Trethewey, Cassandra King, Ace Atkins and Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham and others.