Poet Terrance Hayes to receive Troy University’s Hall-Waters Prize on April 28

Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes will read selections of his work at an April 28 event in the Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park on the Troy Campus.

Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes will read selections of his work at an April 28 event in the Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park on the Troy Campus.

Renowned poet Terrance Hayes, a 2014 MacArthur Foundation Genius Award recipient and a National Book Award winner, will receive the Hall-Waters Prize from Troy University on April 28.

Hayes, who is currently professor of English at New York University, will present selections from his forthcoming collection, So to Speak (July 2023), and his award-winning 2018 collection, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, at 10 a.m. in Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park on the Troy Campus. Admission is free and open to the public. In case of rain, the reading will be held in the Trojan Center Theatre.

The Hall-Waters Prize is endowed by TROY alumnus Dr. Wade Hall, an author, former member of the faculty at the University of Florida and professor emeritus of English at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY. Dr. Hall, a native of Bullock County, endowed the prize as a memorial to his parents, Wade Hall Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth Waters Hall. The award is presented regularly to a person who has made significant contributions to Southern heritage and culture in history, literature or the arts.

“Terrance Hayes is an astonishingly versatile poet and essayist whose work testifies both to the value of tradition and to the salience of contemporary popular culture,” said Dr. Kirk Curnutt, chair of English at Troy University. “His seven poetry collections and two collections of essays really capture the beauty that arises when vernacular is set within the framework of experimental cadences and established forms, adding mystery and intensity to everyday issues of identity, family, and commitment. His work is wonderfully accessible and yet dignified both by formality and urgency in a way that makes them impossible to walk away from—they linger in the mind. It is not every day at Troy University that we are visited by someone who is both a MacArthur “genius grant” recipient and a National Book Award winner, not to mention his many other honors. Our students are very excited to meet one of the leading lights in American poetry.”

Hayes is the author of seven poetry collections: So to Speak; American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin, a finalist for the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and TS Eliot Prize; How to Be Drawn; Lighthead, winner of the 2010 National Book Award for poetry; Muscular Music, recipient of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award; Hip Logic, winner of the 2001 National Poetry Series, and Wind in a Box. His prose collection, To Float In the Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of the Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism. Most recently, Watch Your Language (2023) is a collection of graphic reviews, illustrated prose, and visualized poetics addressing the last century of American poetry.

Past winners include Rep. John Lewis, Bobbie Ann Mason, Pat Conroy, Natasha Trethewey, Cassandra King, Ace Atkins, and the songwriting team of Dan Pan and Spooner Oldham, among others. A complete history of the award is available at Hall-Waters Prize website.

For the second straight year, English majors in Dr. Curnutt’s English 4495 senior seminar are organizing the Hall-Waters ceremony, from picking the menu and writing the award citation to publicizing the event.

“The hands-on experience students gain in putting a ceremony like this together positions them perfectly for future employment either in publishing, literary tourism, or arts management,” Curnutt said. “We already know our majors are excellent creative artists. This event gives them an opportunity to demonstrate that they know how to put on an exciting, memorable show.”