Sept 22, 2014: Pittsburgh Is

Dear readers,

Last week saw the release of a new batch of MacArthur Foundation fellows, and 2 people on this reading list were not terribly surprised to see that Pittsburgh-based poet Terrance Hayes was among the genius honorees. They went to grad school with Terrance back in the 90’s, and I think one of them may even have been dunked on by him at one point. I remember Terrance being good at a lot of things–and nice. Early reports out of Pittsburgh–where I’m writing from–is that bookstore owners and fellow poets couldn’t be happier for Mr. Hayes.
Those on this list for the past couple years will remember his name: he’s the author of “New York Poem” and “Ghazal-Head,” from past editions, and I’ve previously noted that he’d won several prestigious writing awards. None as big as the MacArthur, though.
In the 90’s, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran poems in its Saturday edition. I found a couple archived versions of Hayes poems from his grad school days, and I thought the one below was perfect for this week–a week that also sees the PIrates (“Bucs,” in local and poetic parlance) inching toward a second straight postseason berth. May they meet–through hard work, creativity, and just a little luck–the same heights as today’s featured poet. -ed.

‘Pittsburgh Is’

A large woman gabbing at the bus stop.
She mistakes me for someone who gives a damn,
For a native son of her gray industrial breast.
She blesses her Bucs, her Steelers,
Her father, God rest his soul, was a Penguins fan.
She mistakes me for someone who gives a damn,
Her blue scarf twisting like the mad Monongahela,
Her blue face lined like a jitney’s street map.
I’d tell her I’m not from this place;
These severed grumpy neighborhoods,
These ruthless winter tantrums,
But her long-winded stories have numbed me.
She is persistent as snow, as boot slush & Thinsulate,
As buses rumbling like great, metallic caterpillars.
She lights a cigarette & it means:
Spring will burn quick & furious as a match,
Summer will blaze.
She tells me, Nobody’s a stranger in Pittsburgh.
And maybe I believe her. I believe her,
My frosty, fairy, foster-Mamma,
My stout, blabbering metaphor.

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One response to “Sept 22, 2014: Pittsburgh Is

  1. An excellent comment by a reader on email:
    I heard Terrence Hayes read a couple of parts of 2 of his poems aloud on All Things Considered last week and really liked them, especially as read by the poet. I looked up The Blue Seuss after hearing him read most of it on the story, but found it much more striking to hear it read by him. If you want to have a listen http://www.npr.org/2014/09/17/349272690/macarthur-fellow-terrance-hayes-poems-are-music-language-our-instrument

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