Poet Terrance Hayes addresses life during wartime in How to provoke with courtesy. | Literary Arts | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Poet Terrance Hayes addresses life during wartime in How to provoke with courtesy

The dead bodies of two deer, thickly coated with white spray-paint: The pair of photos by Jude Vachon, each tinted blue and smaller than a business card, are mounted on a sheath of ivory cardstock, compellingly aestheticized and quietly disturbing. Likewise the poems tucked inside, printed on a single long, accordion-folded sheet.

How to provoke with courtesy. A collection of imaginary poems by Terrance Hayes is the striking latest installment in an annual series of small-run publications by designer Brett Yasko. Vachon had found the deer on a roadside, where they remained for months before she painted them; Yasko saw in the images echoes of some new poems by Hayes, verse informed by a time of war.

Most of these nine poems are drily sardonic, calmly livid dispatches from a near-future when war is background noise and terrorism relived in theme parks. "The park's newest attraction" asks: "Remember when you were told to carry Terror year after year, because the task was supposed to return you to your original grandeur?" A park mainstay, depicted in "Our best Patton performer," is a mascot conscripted from military history: "You would be shocked to know that our best Patton performer ever was a thin Asian girl ... I have seen his big head left like a broken sarcophagus outside the break room by spineless performers." And "Support the troops!" -- written from the perspective of a sly Everyman -- takes literally that omnipresent invocation: "I realize that when you said 'Freedom,' you were talking about the meat we kill for, the head of the enemy leaking in the bushes, how all of it makes peace possible."

Hayes, a Carnegie Mellon professor, is arguably Pittsburgh's most accomplished poet under 40; his 2006 collection, Wind in a Box (Penguin), was one of three poetry books on Publishers' Weekly's 100-best list.

At the March 9 installment of the Gist Street Reading Series, Hayes reads along with Portland-based author Charles D'Ambrosio, whose fiction appears frequently in The New Yorker.

How to provoke, a limited edition, is for sale by Yasko for $25 at www.brettyasko.com. Hayes himself seems more impressed with the presentation than with the content he supplied. "Wow, man, I should have tried harder," he says he thought when he saw the book. "Now that I see [the poems], I take them seriously."

Gist Street Reading Series 8 p.m. (doors at 7:30 p.m.). 305 Gist St., Uptown. $5. 412-434-5629 or www.giststreet.org

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Local poetry guru Michael Wurster and poet and editor Judith R. Robinson are assembling an anthology of work by area poets and photographers. Along These Rivers bears the imprimatur of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development by way of promoting the city's 250th birthday.

Submit up to four poems on any subject; send two copies of each. Photographers can submit up to four black-and-white prints (as close to 8" x 10" as possible), also on any subject. All applicants must include their contact info and an SASE. The deadline for submitting both poems and photos is June 1, 2007. Address: Quadrant Publishing, LLC, 4712 Bayard St., Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Questions? 412-681-3018.



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