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National Book Award-Winning Poet Hayes Reads From ‘Lighthead’

Terrance Hayes, a poet and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, won the National Book Award earlier this week. Here, he reads a poem from his award-winning volume called "Lighthead."

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And finally tonight: a poet who earlier this week won the National Book Award.

    Terrance Hayes is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. His award-winning volume is titled "Lighthead."

    Earlier this evening, he read a poem from that collection for us from a studio in Pittsburgh.

    TERRANCE HAYES, 2010 National Book Award Winner: This is a poem I wrote in response to Hurricane Katrina, "Fish Head for Katrina."

    "The mouth is where the dead

    Who are not dead do not dream

    A house of damaged translations

    Task married to distraction

    As in a bucket left in a storm

    A choir singing in the rain like fish

    Acquiring air underwater

    Prayer and sin the body

    Performs to know it is alive

    Lit from the inside by reckoning

    As in a city

    Which is no longer a city

    The tongue reaching down a tunnel

    And the teeth wet as windows

    Set along the highway

    Where the dead live in the noise

    Of their shotgun houses

    They drift from their wards

    Like fish spreading thin as a song

    Diminished by its own opening

    Split by faith and soaked in it

    The mouth is a flooded machine

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