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Terrance Hayes

Biographie

Terrance Hayes (1971) est l'une des voix les plus originales de la poésie américaine d'aujourd'hui. Les quatre recueils qu'il a publiés jusqu'à présent ont invariablement remporté des prix prestigieux. En outre, ses poèmes ont été publiés dans de nombreuses revues très prestigieuses telles que The New Yorker et Kenyon Review.

Les poèmes de Terrance Hayes mêlent le privé et le politique d'une manière innovante. Ils témoignent d'un sens de l'aventure, de l'humour et de l'inventivité. Les questions de race, d'identité, de famille et d'histoire sont des éléments récurrents dans son travail. Le style de Terrance Hayes est fortement influencé par le jazz, mais dans Headlight (2010), par exemple, on peut aussi retrouver des anciennes formes poétiques japonaises. Pour ce recueil, dans lequel le poète explore la construction de l'expérience, Hayes a reçu le National Book Award pour la poésie en 2010. A ce moment-là, il avait déjà publié Muscular Music (1999), Hip Logic (2002) et Wind in a box (2006). Terrance Hayes est actuellement professeur d'écriture créative à la Carnegie Mellon University. Il vit à Pittsburgh, en Pennsylvanie, avec sa femme et ses enfants. 

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Texte d'Auteur

Letter to Paul Mennes

 

Dear Paul,

It was wonderful to receive your letter. I have returned to Pittsburgh now and look forward to meeting you for beer at Park Brugge, a wonderful neighborhood bar that specializes in Belgian beer. It is the only place in Pittsburgh that sells Tripel Karmeliet, a beer I first sampled at the Poechenellekelder, one of the famous old bars of Brussels. I remember not only the Poechenellekelder's eccentric décor (an assortment of trinkets, marionettes, and costumed Mannekin Pis dolls), but also the neighborly faces throughout the bar. Tourists and locals seemed indistinguishable amid the laughter and warmly lit wood furnishings.

Your cordial letter reminds me of Brussels's constant friendliness. I never found the city provincial though I met many who, like you, were highly self-conscious about Brussels. Many of the people I met seemed to have difficulty understanding why anyone would visit the city. They suggested I visit Antwerp, Ghent, and Brugge-strikingly different Belgian cities that were within hours by train. Often the conversation would turn to Belgium's diminutive dimensions.  At a pizzeria in Saint Gilles one night, my new German friend, who I'd met at an art gallery that afternoon, debated the size of Belgium with his friends. "It's the size of Maryland," he insisted. Someone else in the group argued it was the size of Rhode Island. "You can probably drive across Los Angeles in the time it takes to drive across all of Belgium," I was told. "With or without traffic?" I asked. "You can drive across all of Belgium in three hours," Simon's girlfriend said. "I thought it was an hour and one half," someone else interjected. "When I return with my family, I will make the drive and report back to you," I laughed. I assured them I liked Brussels enough to return. Yes, Brussels is a small city in a small country, but it never seemed provincial. The city reminds me of Washington DC because of its mix of expatriates, bohemians, professionals, government workers, service workers and natives. During my stay I heard Congolese, German, and Spanish in addition to Dutch and French. I am aware of Brussels's turbulent cultural history, but I saw the co-existence of so many languages and people as evidence of the city's openness and complexity.

Just as you feared I'd find Brussels provincial, I feared you'd find Pittsburgh small and uninteresting. Andy Warhol once said Pittsburgh is a place you only want to be from. Though it is no longer "hell without a lid," its winters remain so brutal commercials for cold and flu medicines are filmed here. The city's industrial strength, working-class image conceals its homey charms. Bountiful bridges stretch across the three rivers. The neighborhoods maintain distinct cultural identities. And as you noted in your letter, you can find a parade of Steeler t-shirts, jackets, hats and jerseys everywhere. When the Steelers are winning games, the city feels wonderfully unified. Of course beneath the uniform unity, you can find the same social and economic discord that exists in Brussels and elsewhere. There are the same dangers waiting down dark alleys, but I believe an alert and careful person can go just about anywhere. I found this to be true in Brussels. Walking the city alone I found amazing shops of books, art, vinyl records, Tintin comics, waffles, and Manekin Pis souvenirs. It's true I was never out alone after sundown, but the July sun sets late in Brussels. As late as 10 pm the sky still held a faint lavender glow. As I sat writing by the window of my flat late into the night, I could hear the city's energetic bustle.

Perhaps the liveliness of Brussels has to do with the commingling of so many cultures in a small geographic space. Or perhaps being the overlooked neighbor of Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam has made the people of Brussels supernaturally hospitable.  A French bookmaker friend invited me to a Sunday brunch that included a Hungarian graphic artist, a deejay from the Philippines, an Algerian nurse, a Korean chef and a Dutch painter with her two-year old daughter.  The loft was a swirl of languages and charity as the friends shared food and conversation. You might assume that motely group welcomed me as a sort of fellow expatriate artist, but I experienced the same warmth in the homes of native Belgians. I recall, in particular, a small birthday party one Saturday night. The host played his keyboard piano beautifully as rain fell outside his apartment window. He, the birthday girl, her brother and his fiancé made me feel like an intimate old friend.  We shared a red berry cake made by the birthday girl. Then I sat gleefully amazed as they played several YouTube of Belgian music videos: TC Matic, Plastic Bertrand, the Confetti's, and "Pump up the Jam" by Technotronic. When I exclaimed, "I can't believe 'Pump up the Jam' was made by Belgians!" they smiled proudly.

It is not landmarks like the Palace of Justice or the Atomium or the Grand Palace that come to mind when I recall the wonders of Brussels. Instead, I think of the diverse welcoming faces I encountered again and again. I hope you find the same generosity and adventure in Pittsburgh, Paul. I hope we can meet soon for Belgian beer in America!

Sincerely, Terrance

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27.06.11 > 25.07.11

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