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The Wingspan

The Wingspan

Poet Hayes Davis shares writing, encouragement with Centennial students


On Friday, November 10, poet Hayes Davis visited Centennial to speak to students about his experience with poetry and the writing and revising process. In 2016, Davis published Let Our Eyes Linger, his first volume of poetry. An acclaimed writer, Davis won an Academy of American Poets Prize during his time earning a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Maryland. He is the Howard County Poetry & Literature Society’s (HoCoPoLitSo) Writer-In-Residence for 2023-2024.

“I love the brevity, the shortness of poetry,” Davis said as he read his work to the audience. During his presentation, Davis focused on the sensory elements of his poems. Among these was his poem Vessel, written about the grief he felt after the death of his father. He read to students: “My brothers and I / carried him to the water. So many ashes, a pile / on the wet sand. The surf came, swept. We walked / back up the beach. I turned, watched until the surf took / everything— dust, chips, fragments, took my father out to sea.” He encouraged students to think about the sensory imagery in the poem and discussed how incorporating senses into one’s writing paints a full picture of the described experience. “Every time I go to the beach now, my dad’s there,” Davis stated. “I get to share some part of him with my kids every time I go to the beach.”

An advocate for social justice, Davis also highlighted a poem describing a moment of confrontation he and his family had with America’s history as a Black man. He declared to the audience, “Let my children / and I rinse history’s dust but never wash it.” In a conversation-style discussion, students in the audience asked questions about the poem and talked about their own remembrance and reconciliation of the nation’s history.  

Davis even offered students some motivation by recounting his experience with overcoming a stutter when he was younger. He shared a poem titled Pickup, Pause Button to teach students about a persona poem in which the author writes from a different perspective from their own. In his poem, Davis wrote from the perspective of his stutter. Relating to audience members that had dealt with stutters themselves, he recalled how he hated public speaking and never could have imagined that he would make a profession out of it. “If there’s stuff that you’re afraid of, don’t close yourself off from it entirely,” he told the students.

For the final part of his presentation, Davis prompted students to write about the last “really good” meal that they ate through a sensory lens. The library lit up as students excitedly scribbled words down onto paper and Davis called on people to share their work, offering positive feedback. 

Davis’ presentation showed the world of poetry to students—a world that is not always readily accessible to them. His impactful writing and encouragement allowed students to reflect on their own experiences and remain open to the possibility of using writing to describe them.


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Abby Conrad, Feature Editor