American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

- Terrance Hayes

Goodreads Book Blurb:

In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country’s past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares. Inventive, compassionate, hilarious, melancholy, and bewildered–the wonders of this new collection are irreducible and stunning.


My Review:

solid, good read:
3.5 stars, rounded up.

This collection of sonnets, on the surface, is full of playful words, phrases, and references reminiscent of jazz. But the levity of the prose belies the depth of the subject matter.

Written during the first 200 days of Trump’s presidency, these sonnets address the politicisation of white supremacy, police brutality, and the past/present/future of Black activism. They speak to the reality of trying to live and thrive while being hunted and persecuted because of the colour of your skin, of love and loving yourself, and of an assassin that could be anyone, anything, or even your own self.

I found about 70% of this collection to be moving and introspective, sonnets you could reread and take something new from them each time. In some places, the repetition of phrases added strength to the narrative, whereas in others it felt gimmicky, like a placeholder where other words couldn’t be found. The power of the 70% makes American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin well worth the read.

It’s not the bad
people who are brave
I fear, it’s the good people
who are afraid.

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