Richard Hayes writes:
I was born in London in 1949 and grew up without any pretension to writing poetry. My father’s side of the family was very bookish, but I showed no aptitude to English Studies—failing English literature at 16 years with an unclassified (ie less than 25%). I recall at the age of 19 coming across the English romantic school and for the next 5 years absorbed Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley and the later Victorians and studied to emulate their style.
T.S. Eliot comforting and disturbing
At the same time I was deeply unhappy and found T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland both comforting and disturbing—the more so as I worked in the City Of London. However, when I capitulated to Jesus at age 25 a new source of life, supernatural in its power, swept away all the old misery. I destroyed all my writings to clear me of the unhealthy influences I had picked up from the philosophy and spirit of these authors.
Writing with eyes of faith
After 25 years of Christian work and ministry (I presently lead a small church in North Liverpool) I began to write again and discovered that the skills gained early by graft had not been lost—it was the content and the angle that were different. Now I could look with the eyes of faith.
Poetry as experiment
I write mostly in rhyming metric verse. I compose directly onto the computer which has been a liberating tool, as the spelling checker and the Thesaurus will testify. Generally, I write most of a small poem at one sitting and then spend weeks refining the odd line where the words are weak, the rhyme commonplace and the outcome doggerel. With the classic metric model you cannot release a poem till it is finished properly. So, however good most of a stanza is, if one part cannot be fixed, then out goes the whole verse! I often treat a poem as an exercise in style and experiment with structures that demand some tough discipline (eg the Sonnet form).
Several of my poems are in the Utmost Christian Poets Gallery, but the three poems at the bottom of this page illustrate different approaches:
• The Leaders Burial is a 14 line sonnet form touching upon the
mixed feelings of the death and loss of a leader.
• The Beach is a long metre verse image looking at human
existence without faith.
• DW A memorial poem in blank verse for a friend lately gone
A Poet's Places
|A view of the River Mersey estuary from the beach, 5 minutes from where I live, a place of quiet and inspiration. The next stop out to sea is Newfoundland.|
An Interview with Richard Hayes
Utmost: Does the Utmost Gallery represent the first publication of your poetry, or have you been published before?
Richard: I have had a few devotional pieces posted with the Fellowship of Christian Poets. And a competition winning 1st prize published in a winners printing.
Utmost: How important is the publication of poetry by Christian writers?
Richard: Christianity has been side-lined (at least in the United Kingdom) as an odd and cranky belief system. It is therefore critical that, where they can, Christians demonstrate that they are strong minded, thoroughly integrated characters. In my poetry I follow the dictum of Paul, “First the natural then the spiritual.” When I write, I write as an observer of human life, affairs and troubles with a view to leading onto a faith in Christ.
Utmost: When you visit the estuary (pictured above) would you say you are struck more by an emotional response or an intellectual response to the natural scenery around you?
Richard: Definitely intellectual—the open air, silence and cold hard wind clears the mind and enables me to meditate on themes which may later rise up in the creative process.
Utmost: How long do you carry the "seed' of a poem before you begin to write it at the keyboard?
Richard: The process begins with a moment of strong imaginative excitement (often just after periods of prolonged stress) and out of this the ideas flow one upon another—often in complete verses until the inspiration passes. I rarely plan ahead. The least effective of my work (in my view) are those that are consciously and carefully developed, they easily become wooden and predictable.
Utmost: Your poem, The Leader's Burial, must have come from a deep emotional response to the loss of your friend. Tell me about the process of writing that poem, and the interplay of emotions that prompted it.
Richard: The leader’s burial was directly drawn from the events surrounding the death of a great friend. Most of the imagery was directly experienced. The whole was written quickly on the next day while I still felt the emotional turmoil. It spun naturally into a sonnet form. The concluding lines were added to emphasise that a natural ambition and ability to lead is not enough, “he who would be chiefest among you must be servant of all.”
Utmost: Do you ever confess to strangers that you are a poet? How do they respond?
Richard: Poetry is quite personal and strangers don’t know how to respond. I think it's because few have had any exposure in their education. My children laugh at me in a friendly way, and the office people think it a bit quaint.
Utmost: If you could write a truly great poem about one single topic, what would that topic be?
Richard: Difficult one this. I know what I would want to achieve—which is “Bringing the Christian Message into serious consideration.” The topics, as already said, tend to suggest themselves through inspiration.
Utmost: What is the greatest compliment a reader of your poetry can give you?
Richard: That which provokes a desire to do better but also stimulates confidence and energy.
Utmost: What book would you most highly recommend (poetry or otherwise)? Why?
Richard: The English Bible for two reasons:
1) The splendour and cadence of the language.
2) The Truth it breathes which keeps the poet from straying into dubious areas.
Utmost: What is your favorite food?
Richard: Indian curries, which alas I must eat sparingly as the fat content is too high.
The Leader’s Burial
The loose earth falls in fits along the lip
of that rough pit – his coffin waiting there
rattles with stones and dust – the bearers grip
the straps and at a sign release the bier
into the final journey of discipleship.
The day is dry, oppressive, passing clear:
the still unspoken severing of death
is softened by a warm, rich scented air
and strains of song that falter on the breath.
The shortened service said – some stand and stare
old shoulders stoop - eyes drop a parting tear
after their friend – and breaking slowly, walk
together, lost in thought and unaware
as young pretenders congregate and talk.
Copyright©2002 by Richard Hayes
Who, with a bashful, half reluctant step
departing from the quiet lands of Kent,
where he had first received his gracious Lord
and gave his love to Europe’s destitute:-
engaged to face a stiff and sterner test
amidst the tumult of a Northern Town.
Master of wood - alike his own soul’s master
who had won his first affection. Better friend
was never found, nor walked in goodness more
than he—no strike or strength to any blow—
first in defence, if one dismayed was struck
and last to blame, when sorrow laid him low.
Have we not seen him dance - in his mind’s eye
one step only from the brink of Heaven,
hungry for release to rend the curtain
of this dull inanimate condition;
but turning back to weep, he held our hand
weak as a child—and double blessed because.
Constraint removed at length—he too has passed
far from his native land and from this world
to meet the Saviour. Look! He strides once more,
greeting this one and that who loved him well:—
cries out and leaps, runs up, his strength regained
bows his dear head and sinking to his knee
receives the prize for which he laboured long
and gains the kiss he so desired to share.
Copyright©2002 by Richard Hayes