To Float in the Space Between
A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight
Bagley Wright Lecture Series
Published by: Wave Books
Imprint: Wave Books
“Hayes leaves resonance cleaving the air.” —NPR
In these works based on his Bagley Wright lectures on the poet Etheridge Knight, Terrance Hayes offers not quite a biography but a compilation “as speculative, motley, and adrift as Knight himself.” Personal yet investigative, poetic yet scholarly, this multi-genre collection of writings and drawings enacts one poet’s search for another and in doing so constellates a powerful vision of black literature and art in America.
The future Etheridge Knight biographer will simultaneously write an autobiography. Fathers who go missing and fathers who are distant will become the bones of the stories.
There will be a fable about a giant who grew too tall to be kissed by his father. My father must have kissed me when I was boy. I can’t really say. . . . By the time I was eleven or even ten years old I was as tall as him. I was six inches taller than him by the time I was fifteen. My biography about Knight would be about intimacy, heartache.
Terrance Hayes is the author of How to Be Drawn, which received a 2016 NAACP Image Award for Poetry; Lighthead, which won the 2010 National Book Award for poetry; and three other award-winning poetry collections. He is the poetry editor at the New York Times Magazine and also teaches at the University y of Pittsburgh. American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin will also be forthcoming in 2018.
"The Idea of Ancestry" (Poem by Etheridge Knight)
Taped to the wall of my cell (Foreword)
across the space (The Poetics of Origin)
I am all of them (Knight’s Vest of Selves)
I am a thief (Poem: "Portrait of Etheridge Knight in the Style of a Crime Report" by Terrance Hayes)
I have at one time or another been in love (Drawing)
I am now in love (The Craft of Love)
I have the same name (The Poetics of Liquid)
an empty space (Prose/Drawing)
whereabouts unknown (Prose)
the graves (Drawing: For Langston Hughes)
messages (The Poetics of Political Poems)
I sipped cornwhiskey from fruit jars with the men (Prose)
I flirted with the women (Prose)
split/my guts (Drawing)
I had almost caught up with me (Prose)
damming my stream (Poem: "The Blue Etheridge" by Terrance Hayes)
my genes (Prose)
across the space (The Poetics of Community)
I am me (Prose)
"As is the case throughout Hayes’s work, To Float in the Space Between is a meditation on family; from the first, Hayes has fingered the grain of black families, whether linked by blood or duty or sexual tension or aesthetic kinship. To Float movingly bridges these concerns. . . . The 19 sections in Hayes’s book take their titles and focus from phrases in Knight’s most celebrated poem, 'The Idea of Ancestry.' Thus this collection offers a deep textural (as opposed to textual) encounter between two important and mercurial minds."
Ed Pavlic, The New York Times
"National Book Award–winning poet Hayes plunges into creative nonfiction with this book about another poet, Etheridge Knight, cautioning readers that 'this is not a biography.' Throughout, Hayes challenges genre constraints, bringing together personal reflections, drawings, and poems by Knight and himself, and constructing a work that is part speculative biography, part autobiography, and part critical essay. . . . 'How does someone become a poet?’ In this wonderfully lyrical text, Hayes suggests it isn't in the details of an individual's life, but through a hard-to-trace yet vital network of influences."
"There are no heroes to be found here but there are plenty of poets. There’s also an abundance of evidence regarding what makes a poet a poet. Not surprisingly the best instances transcend far beyond anything possibly offered in a classroom setting. Hayes has written a book in its best parts about the larger realm of living... and, for the most part, he does so with the self-scrutiny necessary to bring those lessons to bear on his own work. For there is no work without the life which both informs and is informed by it."
Patrick James Dunagan, Entropy
"Poets are people who promise to continue responding to what is actual. The poet's first poems comprise the promise. As time passes, one admires the continuation as much as the poems. This is why a young poet may be inspired simply by watching his mentor put on her coat and walk out the classroom door: she is in motion, heading towards the world of her materials, as she vowed to do years ago. The motion is the influence, the air stirred in the space between teacher and ephebe . . . In To Float In The Space Between, Terrance Hayes serves up a creative meditation on Influence.
—On the Seawall
"Partly, this is a critical biography of the black poet Etheridge knight: how he came to be the poet and man he was, who did he influence and who was he influenced by. But it’s also a critical biography of Hayes himself. . . . In looking at Hayes looking at Knight, we see both figures, and the history of black poetics, more clearly."
Anthony Domestico, Commonweal
"To Float in the Space Between is simply amazing. It’s an investigation of Hayes’s family tree, a time-lapse of one poet’s bloom, and an homage to the seed(s) that started it all."
Cody Lee, NewPages