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Robert Hayden’s Angle of Ascent

Robert HaydenRobert Hayden’s Angle of Ascent. Presented at Wayne State University, ROBERT HAYDEN/DUDLEY RANDALL CENTENNIAL SYMPOSIUM, April 2, 2014, where I also read on April 3, the canto, from my epic poem, The Parliament of Poets, “The Flight to the Moon of the persona, with his guide, the poet Robert Hayden.”

Emphasizing the continuing influence of Robert Hayden, Phillip M. Richards of Colgate University, educated at Yale University and the University of Chicago, writes, in his 2006 book, Black Heart: The Moral Life of Recent African American Letters, “In the long view of African-American poetry, Hayden’s symbolist poetry has proved more influential than the Black Arts movement…. Hayden, years after his death, remains our most influential black poet, and his followers the most productive and distinguished school of artist intellectuals” (178). Similarly, Charles Henry Rowell, editor of the journal Callaloo, in his book published last year, Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, writes, “The title of this anthology . . . pays tribute to Hayden, a master artist who left behind an extraordinary gift in the pantheon of North American poetry.”

I want to emphasize what Charles Henry Rowell is implying by his carefully choosing the words “North American Poetry.” Rowell understands the literary, social, and aesthetic values that Hayden stood for and realized he couldn’t narrow them down. I myself read Robert Hayden’s poetry for years before I became one of Hayden’s students in 1979. While fully recognizing and relishing Hayden’s poetry, then and now, as I believe the foremost engagement with African-American experience in poetry, I’ve always had the sense, too, which Rowell suggests, that Hayden’s poetry speaks to the human experience of all North Americans, with the universal aspirations of the greatest poets, such as a Whitman. As the author of an epic poem in which Robert Hayden is a character, that has been reviewed in Poetry Cornwall in England as “a masterpiece that will stand the test of time,” and reviewed by Dr. Hans-George Ruprecht of Carleton University in Ottawa as “a great epic poem of startling originality and universal significance,” I gratefully acknowledge that I could never have written my epic poem, The Parliament of Poets, without the example of the art and tutelage of Robert Hayden. Today, we honor Robert Hayden’s striving for the universal, his ability to help us see and understand that about ourselves and our nation, our national experience, one of the perennial goals of great art. At a time when the goals and scope of the literary art were becoming smaller and smaller, turning inward on the small experience of the confessional postmodern self, all the cliches of the personal, the deriding of so-called meta-narratives, Robert Hayden unabashedly saw the personal against the backdrop of a wider social canvas, ever increasingly global in his reach, leading to his poem “[American Journal],” the cosmic vision of his persona from an alien civilization, more human than we are, pondering the nature of life in the United States and on the entire planet…..

The full essay, with an additional biographical paragraph, is now available in

The Myth of the Enlightenment: Essays
Forthcoming, September, 2014.


Frederick Glaysher

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Robert Hayden – Dudley Randall Centennial Symposium

Robert Hayden / Dudley Randall Centennial Symposium, Wayne State University, April 2-3, 2014. I’ll be talking about Hayden’s “Angle of Ascent” and reading an excerpt from my epic poem in which Hayden’s a character. There’s a more readable PDF at the link, of the screenshot below.

Hope you can make it!

Frederick Glaysher


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Amazon Review. Most Important Book Of Our Times.

The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem

The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem

Amazon Review – Most Important Book Of Our Times. October 29, 2013.

“I believe Frederick Glaysher’s book, The Parliament of Poets, is one of the most important books of our times. In this grand sweeping epic, Glaysher has managed to live up to the task given to him by The Parliament of Poets. At a gathering on the moon of many of the most important poets of all time, Glaysher as the Persona is given the task of creating a new vision for humanity; one of Unity and Oneness of humankind. As he travels around the globe, throughout history, guided by the various poets and thinkers of days gone by, he has the vantage point of viewing humanity’s oneness from the overview perspective of the moon, synthesizing and integrating the great thinkers of all time. He has returned from these journeys to the moon and back with an epic poem that manages to fulfill the task given to him. He manages to create for the reader a tangible vision of our shared humanity, and makes an impassioned plea that we WAKE UP before we destroy ourselves and our one precious planet. His is an inspired epic that integrates the ancient wisdom teachings of the world’s greatest wisdom teachers and poets and breathlessly leaves the reader returned safely to Earth with a new vision and sense of responsibility towards our shared humanity. It is a very important book for our times and a MUST READ!!!!” —Amazon Review, also on Goodreads

Frederick Glaysher

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Robert Hayden (Jay Semple)


Rackham Amphitheatre – Fourth Floor. The Rackham Graduate School. The University of Michigan. 10:00AM – 5:00PM. 915 E Washington St, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.

The Department of English at the University of Michigan has announced plans for a one-day conference on November 1, 2013 in honor of Robert Hayden, the distinguished poet and educator who received an M.A. degree from the University of Michigan in 1944 and returned to teach at the university in 1970 as Professor of English until his death in 1980.

Hayden has emerged as a major figure in American literary history. He is the leader, along with Gwendolyn Brooks, of the generation of African American poets that emerged in the 1940s to achieve widespread critical attention and a massive presence in anthologies and textbooks. He served as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (the position now known as Poet Laureate of the United States) from 1976-1978. The U.S. Post Office issued a postage stamp in 2012 to honor his achievement.

The keynote address of the conference, to be held in the Rackham Amphitheater, will be delivered by Harryette Mullen, Professor of English and Creative Writing at UCLA, a Guggenheim Fellow (among other honors), and a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her volume of essays and interviews, The Cracks Between What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be, appeared in 2012.

Professor Mullen will be introduced by A. Van Jordan of the U-M faculty. A panel discussion in early afternoon will include Mullen, Linda Gregerson (of the U-M faculty), Lawrence Joseph, a Detroit native and the preeminent Arab-American poet of our time, and Frederick Glaysher, editor of Hayden’s Collected Poems and Collected Prose. Robert Hayden is a character in Glaysher’s recently published epic poem, The Parliament of Poets. Laurence Goldstein, Professor of English and co-editor (with Robert Chrisman) of Robert Hayden: Essays on the Poetry (University of Michigan Press, 2001), will serve as panel moderator.

In late afternoon, MFA students will read from and speak about Hayden’s poems, along with other participants in the conference.


10 a.m. Keynote address by Harryette Mullen
12-1:30 p.m. Lunch at various restaurants around campus
1:30-3:00 p.m. Panel discussion
3:00-5:00 p.m. Readings and remarks by audience members

After presenting some reflections on Hayden and his poetry on the panel, during the late afternoon, I’ll be reading a passage from my epic poem, The Parliament of Poems, from the Persona’s flight to the moon, with his guide, the poet Robert Hayden. Hope you can make it. The day promises to be a worthy tribute to a life well lived for the art of poetry. Please help spread the word far and wide.

UPDATE 9-22-2013: I attended and enjoyed a poetry reading yesterday, by Herbert Woodward Martin, at Wayne State University in Detroit. He’s of course the famous interpreter of Paul Laurence Dunbar. He gave a powerful reading of Hayden’s poem “Frederick Douglass,” among others… See the Calendar for other Centennial events honoring Hayden and Dudley Randall. Please help letting other people know about them by Sharing… Robert Hayden and Dudley Randall Centennial Calendar

Frederick Glaysher

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