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Feature Poet

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This month’s featured poet is: Robert Hayes

Robert S. Hayes is a member of the Canadian Federation of Poets member and Edcuation Director for the CFP.
I belonged to Canadian Authors Association Manitoba Branch, and was Acting President.  I also had membership in the Manitoba Writer’s Guild.  I went to many writer’s conferences and gained a great deal from many professional writers.  It was at one of the writer’s conferences in Winnipeg, that I met my third (and, as she says, “My final”) wife. We have a lovely nine-year old daughter. 

“The Tree of Life,

The prairie:

A vine

You standing,

A Shepherdia Canadensia, perhaps…

It entwines you;

Its branches seek the air;

Breath from lungs outside itself

Forming woody bronchia


Overseeing fields of life:

Vast canvases as far as the I can see;

And witness only, anticipated prospects of human potential;

To listen to the sound only the prairies make…

Mixtures of winds, dust, fly away seed defining nothing…”


This is the first part of a poem from a collection of poems called “Prairies Songs”.  They come from my fascination with the prairies, having moved here some years ago from London England, where I was born. 

My earliest recollection is climbing through shells of bombed out homes, and the smell of the decaying absence of life.  My father was a sailor, my mother, a factory worker.  My brother and I watched London go by outside of the local pub Friday nights, while mum and dad found their nirvana and fellowship with other imbibers.  Our staple for the evening was a bottle of Tizer and bags of crisps with a little blue bag of salt as we waited outside.  Sometimes, the fish monger stall appeared under the gas light, then dad or mum would stagger out to buy us a bag full of whelks, or jellied eels or piping hot chestnuts. 

I had a very difficult time learning and dealing with school.  As a child, I never saw the point of going to school just to be bullied by teachers and harassed by other kids.  The fight for self- preservation came in retreat and seclusion.   In my isolation, a teacher recognized a talent in me to draw and paint.  Soon, I began to feel better about going to school to venture into the figures, landscapes and expressions of my own invention.  When we moved out of London, things changed in many ways.  School became more meaningful.  I loved the team playing aspect, and when opportunity came to play basketball, soccer, cricket and rugby, I was in there like the proverbial “dirty shirt”.  But, I was a loner at heart, and when it came to athletics, I chose discus throwing and became school champion.

After Secondary School I wandered from job to job and managed to get a position as a “general dog’s body” at a local brewery.  There I met a maintenance engineer, who kind of took me under his wing, pointed me in the direction to starting an apprenticeship.  It was a five-year stint, which, at that time, seemed an eternity.  I was so green, I think I was emerald.  During that five-years I went to school for six-months out of each year, and worked in different departments the rest of the time. I graduated with honours in mathematics and engineering.

But it was not until I immigrated that I found, to my angst, that I liked writing.  I fell into a teaching career in mathematics and science at a Winnipeg College.  During that time, I wrote text books on mathematics, got published, but always had a drive from my heart to write poetry and short stories.  I was published in the now defunct Winnipeg Tribune, went back to England and married my college sweetheart.  I took her back to my life in Winnipeg, which turned out to be a disastrous move. Three years after our daughter was born, the marriage was annulled and they went back to England.  I wrote a lot in those trying times.  College life and writing scripted into an extraordinary life of learning and studying.  I met my second wife – a teacher and we had a daughter.  Life was good.  So, I decided to go out and save the world.  I started by organizing a group to form a home for eight mentally challenged adults.  I was up to my armpits with committee meetings, government funding efforts, house designs and city ordnances. These, along with family life, teaching, and taking courses took their toll.  The results were swift and painful.  My second marriage collapsed, with devastating repercussions for all concerned. 

The initial committee for the group home dwindled to two people.  It was then we had a miraculous breakthrough, got the home; got the clients and got the home up and running with the help of many believers in the cause. Personal misfortune, however, left me empty and plagued with migraines.  I left the group home volunteer business after ten years of playing the white knight.  I bled for some time, bandaging the wounds with prose and poetry.  I would limp onto pages with my soul hanging out.  Eventually I began to realize that diehards are enlisted in Canada’s Worst Idol Program, and stemmed the blood tide with tourniquets of creativity.

I am a grandfather with five beautiful grandchildren.  My life is being resolved on a daily basis.  I am steadied by my wife who is a writer, artist and resourceful homemaker.  My daughter loves to write and paint.  My transformation is not complete, but the startling thing is I am work in progress.

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