At thirteen the sudden impact of poetry overwhelmed me, in the powerful voices of those doomed young poets of the First World War like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, who survived the trenches long enough to evoke their hellish experience. A new world of language unfolded as the poems of John Keats and John Donne inspired and moved me. When I read Sylvia Plath I realised that women too could write about life with such heartbreaking eloquence. My own early poems arose from the pain of being fourteen, with feelings too vast and improbable for ordinary language to express. Although I was already writing fiction, I found that I had a different voice when I wrote poetry. It was at times lyrical and melodic, beating out in its heartfelt rhythm the stanzas of my inner elegy. At other times it was rough-edged, raw and brutal with its honesty. Above all, it was intensely personal. I look back on now with affection for that girl I used to be.
COMING TO TERMS
I abandoned the poetic form at seventeen and focused on writing short stories and novels for publication - a prolific outpouring that brought a degree of success and acclaim that lasted throughout my twenties and thirties. The vast and improbable feelings hit me again in my thirties, during the agonising death throes of my marriage, and a sequence of poems later entitled 'Coming to Terms' evolved between 1979 and 1987. I never sought to publish these poems, and showed them only to a limited audience of friends and lovers, both at the time and in the years since.
IMAGERY BEYOND TIME
I realised all over again that the poems came from a different voice in me. My stories were sometimes darkly humorous, smiling wryly at the predicament of being human. When I fell in love with a photographer, in 1986, I saw that my poems were like black and white shots of empty rooms, desolate beaches, a story that could only be hinted at in the expression on a face, or the curved droop of a defeated hand. Years later, when I fell in love with an artist, I saw that my poems were like pictures, imagery beyond time of a captured poignant moment, resonant with significance.
THE VOICE THE SOUL RECOGNISES
They still speak in that voice the soul recognises as its memory of love and loss – as well as the remembrance of joy, passion and realisation. In later years I added to the original collection, having by then lived through very different events from those that stirred me when I was younger. The more mature poet’s voice reflects some of the wisdom and self-acceptance acquired along the way.
THAT PLACE OF SUFFERING AND UNCERTAINTY
Some of my later poems came directly from a place of suffering and uncertainty, while undergoing a prolonged period of illness. Others were forged in the crucible of intimate relationship, or were inspired by other people’s journeys, and by art. A core belief in the transcendent nature of the soul has continually underpinned my life, and this has been reflected in my work as a therapist as well as a writer.
Copyright © 2018 Lesley Hayes. All rights reserved.