Slides for 3/8

March 8: Plot: Conan Doyle. Introduction to the layers of narrative; the example of “A Scandal in Bohemia.” Incidentally, scholars refer to the creator of Sherlock Holmes either as Doyle or as Conan Doyle.

For 3/4

March 4: Hayes (4). There were no slides for this second discussion of Hayes’s American Sonnets. We took a harder look at some of the assassins, and considered the overall shape and significance of the sequence.

For 3/1

March 1: Hayes (1). There were no slides for this first discussion of Hayes’s American Sonnets. Our conversation focused on individual sonnets chosen by the class.

Notes on Hayes (complete)

Part of the point of Hayes’s references, I think, is to spur readers to look stuff up. So I have some hesitation about doing it for you, but on the other hand I can make following the breadcrumbs a little easier. (Updated 2/27/21 with notes through the end.)

Hughes (5)


Wheatley (5)


Sylvia Plath (5)

American poet (1932–63), icon of confessional poetry, that is, poetry on explicitly autobiographical subjects.

Orpheus (5)

in Greek myth, a poet and singer who (in the most familiar version of the story, from the Latin poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses) attempted to retrieve his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld, was allowed by Hades to return with her on condition he not look back, looked back, lost her, and was subsequently torn to pieces by Maenads for playing unbearably mournful music.

Money (7)

Emmett Till was lynched at age 14 in 1955 in Money, Mississippi. His murderers were acquitted.

Neruda (8)

Pablo Neruda (1904–1973), Chilean poet, perhaps the most eminent Latin American poet of the twentieth century. Nobel Prize for Literature, 1971.

Sanford (9)

city in Florida, site of the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012.

Ferguson (9)

needs no annotation, hopefully, like the subsequent city names here.

threat / Advisory (10)

the US Department of Homeland Security’s color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System, used 2002–2011, mostly fluctuated between Yellow and Orange.

Caligula (10)

(12–41 CE), third Roman emperor, notorious for decadence and cruelty.

gym & crow (11)

Jim Crow is the name for the legal system of racial segregation in force in the U.S. South from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries.

Voltas of acoustics (11)

the volta, remember, is the “turn” prescribed between the 8th and 9th lines of a Petrarchan sonnet. Hayes is punning on “volts” too.

James Earl Ray (12)

assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.

Dylann Roof (12)

perpetrator of a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, SC, in 2015.

George Zimmerman (12)

killer of Trayvon Martin in 2012.

John Wilkes Booth (12)

assassin of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

Robert Chambliss Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr / Bobby Frank Cherry Herman Frank Cash (12)

four Ku Klux Klan members who committed the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombings in Birmingham, AL, in 1963, killing four black girls.

Byron De La Beckwith (12)

Ku Klux Klan member who killed civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Mississippi in 1963.

Roy Bryant J. W. Milam (12)

murderers of Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi in 1955.

Edgar Ray Killen (12)

Ku Klux Klan member and ringleader in the murders of three civil rights activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, in Mississippi in 1963.

Bettye LaVette (14)

soul musician.

Buckras (14)

white people.

Archie Bunkers (14)

Archie Bunker was a bigoted character on the 1970s sitcom All in the Family.

Gwen Brooks’ “The Mother” (14)

poem from Brooks’s first collection, A Street in Bronzeville (1945).

James Baldwin (16)

(1924–1987), eminent African-American essayist and novelist. A bit of a photographic icon too (look at images on the Wikipedia page).

Jimi Hendrix (18)

(1942–1970), the great guitarist.

Monk orchestras (18)

that is, the jazz orchestras of Thelonious Monk (1917–1982).

Miles with strings (18)

Miles Davis (1926–1991), the jazz trumpeter.

Ms. Dickinson (21)


Galway Kinnell writes of Saint Francis (21)

(1927–2014), American poet, whose “Saint Francis and the Sow” says what Hayes says it says.

deep image poem (21)

term associated with the American experimentalist poet Jerome Rothenberg.

Maxine Waters (23)

Congresswoman from California, prominent among Democratic Party politicians denouncing Donald Trump.

listening / to Aretha Franklin sing Precious Lord (23)

you can too, with YouTube.

Amiri Baraka (24)

(1934–2014), poet, central figure in the Black Arts movement. Born LeRoi Jones in Newark. “Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note” appeared in Baraka’s 1961 volume of that title.

Bluff Estates…Harlem Street (25)

These are street names in Hayes’s hometown, Columbia, SC.

Soaphead Church…/ Gideon, Son (26)

characters in Toni Morrison’s novels.

Derek Walcott (30)

(1930–2017), poet from St. Lucia in the Caribbean. After Walcott’s death Hayes spoke publicly about reckoning with Walcott’s record of sexual harrassment (in a notorious case from Walcott’s time teaching at Harvard in 1981) alongside his poetic eminence. He alludes obliquely to the issue in his 2020 Blaney Lecture to the Academy of American Poets (transcript, video).

the Hancock movie (31)

2008 superhero film (clip).

Trinidad / James (32)

All Gold Everything,” 2012.

“Lemonade” by Gucci / Mane (32)

single, 2009.

Midas (32)

the mythical king whose touch turned everything to gold.

Neruda said / Of lemons (32)

Neruda’s “Oda al limón” appeared in his Tercer libro de las odas (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1957), 126–27.

Rilke (33)

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926), Austrian poet. “Archaic Torso of Apollo” was published in German in Rilke’s Neue Gedichte [New poems], vol. 2, in 1908.

James Wright (33)

(1927–1980), American poet. “Lying in a Hammock…” was published in 1963.

Ruth Stone (33)

(1915–2011), American poet. I cannot find an online text of “A Moment.”

Time Lord (40)

in the long-running British science-fiction TV show Doctor Who, the hero, called the Doctor, belongs to alien race of time-travellers called Time Lords.

“Pony” by Ginuwine (47)

this reference to the 2014 song sets up a very good joke, but possibly I should warn you that the music video, which you can find yourself easily, is provocative.

Shop Road (50)

In Columbia, SC.

When / Lincoln witnessed a slave auction (57)

on a trip to New Orleans in 1831. In some accounts of this life (for example Ida Tarbell’s 1896 Early Life of Abraham Lincoln), this is said to be a defining moment for Lincoln’s opposition to slavery.

Job’s / Afro (57)

the Old Testament figure, a pious man who suffered greatly. His hairstyle is not described in the Bible.

Nina Simone (60)

(1933–2003), American singer and musician, strongly associated with the Civil Rights movement.

Whale-road is a kenning for sea (61)

Old English poetry (ca. 600–1000 CE) is noted for the use of figurative compound nouns called “kennings.” Near the start of the great epic Beowulf, the sea is called hronrād, “whale-road.”

sunflowers / Van Gogh destroyed (63)

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)’s series of sunflower paintings are among his best-known. Hayes studied painting in college.

stones Georgia painted (63)

Georgia O’Keefe (1887–1986), American modernist painter, famed for still life paintings of stones, skulls, and flowers.

Prince taught us [63]

(1958–2016; note the date), American musician who was, as Wikipedia says, known for his “flamboyant and androgynous persona.”

what happened in Money (63)

see notes to p. 5.

Willie Nelson (66)

(1933–), country musician.

George Wallace (69)

(1919–1998), segregationist governor of Alabama, shot by a would-be assassin during his 1972 presidential campaign.

the girls the bomb buried in Birmingham (69)

see notes to p. 12.

Jackson & Abernathy (73)

Jesse Jackson (1941–), Ralph Abernathy (1927–1990), civil rights activists who were close to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference but whose relation to MLK’s legacy is complex.

Du Bois (73)

W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963), pioneering black intellectual, founder of the NAACP.

X (73)

Malcolm X (1925–1965), black radical political leader, killed by assassins.

The saddest part of the opera is where Frida says it / To Diego (80)

there really is, apparently, an opera about the Mexican painters Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) and Diego Rivera (1886–1957) who married in 1929 and divorced in 1939. That makes me wonder whether the “story” and the “scene” in the same poem also have real referents.

Lorca’s Breath (82)

Interviewer: “Did you make up ‘Lorca’s Breath’ as an orchid?” Hayes: “Yes.” Federico Garcia Lorca (1898–1936), Spanish poet, killed in the Spanish Civil War. Salvador Dalí (1904–1989), Spanish surrealist painter and friend of Lorca.