Skip to main content

Poem by John Haynes

Eyewear is honoured to be able to feature poetry, this Friday, from John Haynes (pictured),this year's winner of the Costa Poetry Prize (formerly known as the Whitbread Prize) for his collection, Letter to Patience, published by the excellent Seren, based in Wales. While I have yet to read the whole book, what I have seen of it, including this section, excerpted below, is worth getting to know.

Haynes was born of parents who were professional entertainers. After dropping out of school at 16, he joined the RAF, before going on to university, where the great poet F.T. Prince ("Soldiers Bathing") was his tutor. Haynes spent 1970 to 1988 as a lecturer in English at Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria where he founded the literary journal Saiwa. Now back in the UK, he has continued teaching, writing and publishing and is the author of a number of books: on teaching, style and language theory, as well as African poetry, stories for African children, and two other volumes of verse. Sections of Letter to Patience have appeared, over the years, in London Magazine, Stand, Poetry Review, Ambit, Critical Quarterly and Poetry Wales. He has won prizes in the Arvon and National Poetry competitions. He has a PhD in applied linguistics.


VI

"The bar is what you're going to miss," you said,
"not me," but that's wrong isn't it, to draw
lines around people (even if they're dead),

as if I'd miss the place you live in more
than you, when there's no line between at all
and that's something that you kept saying, your

philosophy, the sense of floor, mud wall,
dust road as who we are, the kites' long cry
at harmattan, the beggar's rhythmic call

outside Alhaji Kowa's store, this I
that floats and enters you from just as far
as ever, dear one, shapeless as the sigh

that lifts out of your mouth, out of the bar,
out of the rusted corrugated zinc
and mixes with some wailing armoured car

out on the road, and then the first tink-tink
of birds, the cockerel's call, none of it you,
except that when I think of it I think

it is and not the old femme noire, femme nue
"Afrique", no, something shared in spite of skin
colour, and Lugard's maxim gun, or through

just those, is it? I think so, what we're in,
as what we are. And so I'm writing this
Magana Jari Ce, am I, to spin

you into words? A spell, a selfishness
to try and keep you there, or rather here,
closing my eyes with lust to see, miss

you, sharper - no, the bar, musci, the beer?
Or it's an elegy for someone dead
for all I know, for all I fear to fear.


section excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from Letter to Patience
Seren Books, 2006
by John Haynes

http://www.seren-books.com/public/index.cfm
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

OSCAR SMOSHCAR

The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…