In Which We Return to The Richer Inner Life of Robert Hayden To Restate What Should Be Obvious By Now


paintings by Romare Bearden.

The Romare Bearden Foundation

We last visited the world of Robert Hayden here. Don’t be fooled by the ScarJo picture; far more important was the cause of this great artist who so few know about. Destined to be a poet’s poet, Hayden never had a chance to benefit from the fact of his race–as curriculums sit on the fetid corpse of another year of bourgeouis multiculturalism that permits the actual subject of other cultures to be limited to Toni Morrison books, here is Hayden, accessible, cogent, sometimes difficult surely, but always ready to explain again.

Those Winter Sundays

by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

“Seventeen Years” — Ratatat

“Just Like” — The Jesus and Mary Chain

Beatles iPod

Prince Harry made fun of as ginger.

Frederick Douglass

by Robert Hayden 

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.


His 1970 collection Words in the Mourning Time mourned the death of figures both public and private.

Hayden’s contemporary and friend Michael S. Harper gave Will and I a very intense reading of this classic Hayden poem while we were at Brown. I never had cause before to claim “this is Hayden’s best poem”, but MSH made a great argument for it.

“Planet News” — The Assistants (classic track)


by Robert Hayden


October —
its plangency, its glow

as of words in
the poet’s mind

as of God in
the saint’s.


I wept for your mother
in her pain, wept in
my joy when you were
that October morning.
We named you
for a star a star-like
poem sang.
            I write this
for your birthday
and say I love you
and say October
like the phoenix sings you.


This chiming
and tolling
        of lion
and phoenix
and chimera
This huntsman’s
horn, sounding
        mort for
quarry fleeing
through mirrors
        of burning
into deathless


of surprising snow

the October trees,

branches that

crashing set
the snow on fire.

3 thoughts on “In Which We Return to The Richer Inner Life of Robert Hayden To Restate What Should Be Obvious By Now

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