Dear Terrance Hayes,

I read your poem “Barberism” over and over again because it just sounds good. There is no special way the poem needs to be read. The words naturally fall into place and become a song in itself. For example in the first line, I really loved, “It was light and lusterless and somehow luckless” and in the second stanza, “It was pepper-blanched and wind-scuffed.”  The alliteration and rhythm give it a particular beat. In addition, every word has purpose and plays a role in drawing out a picture of this moment: you cutting your father-in-law’s hair.

I really love the line, “Science and religion come to the same conclusion: / Someday all the hair on the body will fall away.” The way you look at your father-in-law reminded me of the way I look at my grandmother. I think about age, growing old, and change, and how at some point, all the hair on the body will fall away when I see her.

I wanted to ask what you meant in the line, “Behind his ear, but I could not say how / The blood there tastes.” I thought of it as you being unable to truly relate to the circumstances of other people. I also have a few other questions I wanted to ask:

How would you describe the process of writing this poem? Was the process different from how you usually write poems?
How do you overcome writer’s block?
Have you seen the movie Paterson, and if so, what do you think of it?
Do you think any poem can become a spoken word poem?

I usually find you in the New York Times Magazine along with the poems you select, so I was excited to have an opportunity to write a letter to you when I found you were a part of the Dear Poets Project this year. Thank you for being a poet I can look up to. Your work inspires me as well as many other young aspiring artists.


Grade 10
Livingston, New Jersey

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