Robert Hayden

American writer and academic

Robert Earl Hayden (August 4, 1913February 25, 1980), born Asa Bundy Sheffey, was an American poet, essayist, and educator. From 1976 to 1978, Hayden was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, the position which in 1985 became the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.


  • Sundays too my father got up early
    and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
    then with cracked hands that ached
    from labor in the weekday weather made
    banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
    • Those Winter Sundays (lines 1-5), from Collected Poems (1985)
  • What did I know, what did I know
    of love's austere and lonely offices?
    • Those Winter Sundays (lines 13-14)
  • Standing to America, bringing home
    black gold, black ivory, black seed.
    • Middle Passage (lines 15-16), from Collected Poems (1985)
  • 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 who and oh who will sing Jesus down
    to help with struggling and doing without and being colored
    all through blue Monday?
    Till way next Sunday?
    • Mourning Poem for the Queen of Sunday (lines 10-13), from Collected Poems (1985)

Quotes about Robert Hayden

  • right now I’m re-reading and re-reading Robert Hayden’s poems, which are absolutely beautiful and brilliant.
  • When I read Jefferson's disparagement of Wheatley, it felt like he had been disparaging the entire lineage of Black poets who would follow her, myself included, and I saw a man who had not had a clear understanding of what love is. When Robert Hayden gave us the ballads to remember how captured Africans survived the Middle Passage and arrived on these shores, it was an act of love...
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